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Aulus had promised his son that he would take him somewhere, just the two of them. He had had to discharge several duties first, but had cleared a day, refusing to make any appointments of any description. He'd had too many occasions recently where things had come up at the last minute (the curse of a provincial governor the Empire over!) but now that he had resigned his imperium and was a private citizen again, he could refuse to see anyone and everyone for a day.

He felt almost like a youth again himself as he took Titus to the Campus Martius. There were temples there, a circus (smaller than the Circus Maximus, naturally, but still in use), the Augustan Mausoleum, and the potential for watching Praetorians at some military drill.

Aulus had foregone his toga for a comfortable linen tunic in blue, with a darker blue pallium, edged with silver embroidery that picked up the silver creeping into his hair.

"I suppose you don't really remember much of Rome?" he said, looking down at his son fondly.

 

@Mim

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@Sharpie

Titus didn't remember much of Rome -- he'd been nine when he left, so the strongest snatches of memory were specific if hazy tableaux that didn't do much to contribute to a general impression. Some of the things stashed away in his memory were doomed to be forgotten; four years was a long time for the heart of the world, and as much as there were constants, many of the bits that would be noticeable to a child and call back the memories attached to them were variable for the simple reason that adults had ceased to find them noteworthy. Others changed because the people responsible for them changed, for various reasons; Rome seemed to Titus a colder city than Augusta Vindelicorum in spirit, and the climate, in a child's imagination that still tended to anthropomorphism, must have warmed specifically to compensate.


This didn't mean he didn't want to remember, though. His grandfather kept Vindelician and Raetian house slaves -- somethingeth generation, not really expecting much change in life -- who had treated Titus warmly enough, even taught him what they knew of the local speech, but although Raetia the place (at least Grandfather's residence there and the nearby city) felt like home, Raetians the people seemed to treat him and his as sort of outsiders. He didn't really blame them -- poor folk were like that with rich folk.

The divide seemed superficially narrower in the provinces, but although everyone clearly thought of Rome in theory as something aspirational, Rome in practice was far away and beyond most people's reach. And because people had sort of ... treated him specifically as a  Roman, both citizen and unbelonging city slicker, for most of his living memory, there was something in Titus that wished he identified more with the city -- with what he'd comforted himself would welcome him a bit more warmly than local kids. He'd thought he would, but ... so far things were kind of ... hard to identify with. Very loud. And he'd grown a foreign accent while he was away, to boot, which he was really trying to lose -- it was working, but not near fast enough.


It would come with time, maybe. Hopefully. Maybe there was a transformative moment when you offered up your bulla and suddenly some benevolent genius loci appeared in your dreams to tell you all about how to experience patriotism, rather than the vague overwhelm and fear of not measuring up that weighed on his shoulders now.


For the moment, he nodded up at Aulus -- his father, this almost larger-than-life figure that had re-entered his life -- and managed an expression of owl-eyed, guarded reciprocal fondness. If he showed too obviously that he cared what he thought of him, that this feeling of being loved this way, this ... paternal sympathy had been missing for so long and he'd never even known, some irrational part of him still thought it might disappear again. And maybe it would; maybe the gods were apt to get exactly that disappointed in him. Maybe there'd be a revolt in stupid Britannia or something -- not that Titus was sure why, but it was the butt of a lot of dark adult jokes, so obviously there were solid reasons to revolt there.


"Not really," he said quietly, finally, by way of response. "I was a kid when we left, so I don't think I have much to remember it by."
Oops. "I-I mean, by which to remember it." 
Darn provincial way of talking -- Titus straightened his back and pretended to be looking out at one of the temples so as to hide the big ol' honkin' thorn of embarrassment pricking at him. 
(Big... ol'... honkin'? That definitely wasn't in any of the texts that had formed the basis of his education -- not even the theatrical comedies.)
"... I suppose I'll have plenty of opportunities to re... familiarize myself with Rome now." And with you. But he would never dare say that yet, just the same as he'd been careful not to call Aulus "tatta". Because that would be immature, and excessively chummy, and wouldn't he think he was weird if he was almost a whole grownup and still using baby words? (It was different with Mamma, obviously. Mamma was still sort of like a timeless entity beyond reproach and change in form of address.)
 

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"Of course you were," Aulus said, thinking back. Titus had been about nine when they'd left for Raetia, and while he'd tried to spend time with his son, naturally his duties and responsibilities as governor had taken precedence - and he'd been absent for the vast majority of the boy's childhood before that.

"Well, we're going to be here for at least a year," he said. "Hopefully longer, though that depends on a great many things, of course."

But it would be at least a year if Aulus were successful in his quest to become consul.

And it seemed as though there was a squad of Praetorians making use of the field (or what was left of it considering the number of temples encroaching onto it!) for some drill or something.

"What do you remember?" he asked, curious to know where to begin, and what might interest Titus. He would definitely have to make sure to take him out to the races and the gladiators - it would be part of his duty as consul to be seen at those, anyway, and far better to do it with his family than on his own. Titus need not care about the 'having to be seen to be there' part of it, he could just enjoy the spectacle, from the best seats there (apart from the Imperial Box, of course.)

 

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"I remember the house," said Titus truthfully; maybe it was best to branch out and begin from there. That was how Grandfather taught him to memorize things -- pick a long walk and imagine the ideas as objects along it, that you can see and touch. If he started at the house, then he would definitely recall something contextually appropriate...!
"You know, the house. Ours."
It occurred to him that all his memories of it weren't really dignified enough to bother his father with -- there was watching baby Calpurnia to make sure that she didn't fall in the impluvium and drown  (as Calpurnias, Titus imagined, were wont to do if one but gave them a second's time to do it, nevermind that it wasn't really that deep), and then playing with the guard dog, and that time that he fell asleep in the lararium, and that time that he knocked a bust into the impluvium (he maintained that that wasn't his fault)... but all of that was so mundane.
He didn't remember doing anything cool in there. To be fair he'd been nine at the time -- but then, when 'the time' was only a couple years ago, one never really was able to judge oneself-from-the-past as a different person with different immediate definitions of cool.

 


"Well and there was the bath and the subura but we never really went there because it's just a subura, you know? There's that temple in the neighbourhood too that Grandfather seems to not approve of and Mamma has never been to," something about people drinking and partying with someone named Orgia in there (seemed like a Greek name), though what she'd done that was so undignified escaped Titus at the moment and he was above gossip, "and then ... oh!"
As much as he'd been trying to maintain the appropriate level of gravitas, he was excited to finally be remembering something.
"So if this is our house," he said, drawing a loose square in the dust with one pointed sandaled foot, "then here's these other houses -- that one's the domus Petronii Aquilini, I kind of remember them," or rather kind of remember they exist and hear their names around sometimes,  but not if we've ever met before literally this year and am now terribly ashamed but doing a great job of hiding it. "And then there's the subura, which means the public pool is here, and the bath is that way..."
 

He thus lost himself for a few moments sketching out a map with his foot of the limited areas of the city he knew -- an oval shape for the immediate neighbourhood of their family home, then vague circles off to the side for places he knew were geographically probably related to other places that had their own circles. He'd never been to them, so he couldn't confirm -- he indicated the non-domus places he HAD physically been, a grand total of three he remembered because they were very close to the house.
"I know there's more because I've read about it, but I've seen none of it because I'm not allowed to go too far from the house on my own because it's Rome not Augusta Vind'licorum," he explained, parroting his mother's admonition, "and Mamma says I'll only be allowed to do that in Rome when I'm properly grown. House rule," he added apologetically, as though it being a Rule He Had To Follow somehow made up for how totally wimpy that must sound to an adult with Freedom.
(But then was even Aulus really free from Mamma's influence? And besides -- it did. If you weren't a law-abiding citizen then you were a crook and you'd get angry letters from the government.)

"I just want to see everything, you know? Now that I have you," still uncertainly, still as if that wasn't a given, "we can do that, right? We can just ... go and see the sights and buy sweet rolls and things."
If he were asked to be honest -- completely honest -- and he could somehow find it in himself to comply, Titus would be forced to admit that it wasn't really that he particularly wanted to walk around doing nothing. But every hour he spent walking around doing nothing was an hour of time to talk to his father, to learn what kind of person he was and bask in this weird ephemeral feeling of paternal love; part of him was anxious that it wouldn't be the same watching a gladiator fight or a chariot race or a play, because gladiator fights and chariot races and plays were all cooler than Titi. Titus recognized that, felt dwarfed by the history and the... happening around him.
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"Well, we are going to go a great deal further across Rome and see some of those sights," Aulus said. "I thought you might like to see the Campus Martius, where the Praetorians drill sometimes, and to get there we'll pass very close to the Forum, so you'll see that. And I'm sure we can find a sweet bun or two on the way."

Rome was a very large city, and very full of people, and of course Titus hadn't gone very far.

They walked together for a little, passing the Flavian Amphitheatre, which had merely been a building site the last time Aulus had been in Rome.

He supposed even his own father wouldn't have had much opportunity to take Titus to the Forum; Tiberius was only back in Rome because Aulus had returned after a four years' absence, and neither knew when he would have the chance to take his family down to the villa at Baiae.

"How are your studies?" he asked, trying to find something to say. Had it ever been awkward to talk to to his own son about inconsequential things? He couldn't think that it had been, and yet he couldn't think of many times in the last four years when he'd been able to spend time with his son without being interrupted by something requiring his prompt and undivided attention.

 

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Titus trailed after Aulus mostly in silence after that, admiring the fact that they existed in the same space and separately anxious about how he should act so as to not lose what limited favour he thought he had. Or had he already lost it going off like that? Was that too much in too short a span of time? He didn't frequently see actual relatives because the bulk of them - even the new ones he was only now meeting - had careers to attend to and were busy doing things that he was still too young to do. He didn't know. He kind of thought he might win it back if he was quiet and a little more reserved.
 Occasionally they would pass something that he'd definitely never seen before, and Titus would keep his awe to himself, because -- and he'd known that before, but now it was attenuated -- it was kind of boorish to express too much of it. Except maybe in poetry, but he didn't really get that yet. 

When his father finally spoke up again it startled him out of a sort of daze, and he did his best to pretend that he hadn't been in that either, scrambling mentally for answers but outwardly trying to stay composed.
"I like to think I'm not a bad student." Was that a good answer?
He really wasn't -- he could do arithmetic fine, even 'very well', and had put one of the few things he'd had time to learn personally from his grandfather (i.e. the place-memory trick) to very good use memorizing speeches and poems, and he was attentive to lectures even when the topics seemed to have nothing to do with anything. He suspected that was quickly becoming not enough -- before the move to Rome, which had begun sort of a Dog Days period of not really doing much in an educational context, his tutor in Raetia had told him he should begin to read didactic texts about poetry. He'd been good about going through them, and they were interesting even though the "click" of understanding and internalization hadn't really dawned on him yet.

"Do you like ... um," despite his awareness that filler words weren't good, it was this or swallow his tongue, "literary criticism? I don't remember you ever really talking about that with me before, but maybe I just didn't get there yet. I read 'Phoenician Women' for my tutor a bit before we came and, um, I don't get what the point was of making it so ... tragic. I understand that it's supposed to be about how it's difficult to balance duty to family with duty to the state and, um, the pursuit of happiness...  but it's just so dismal. Why did Euripides choose to write it that way? I don't think we're supposed to do meta stuff yet, that's supposed to be for ... well, technically now, as in starting this year, but ... did ... um, do you know if he was in a big war or something like that? Was he in a situation where he had to choose between those things? Or do you not have to have lived something on that kind of scale to write about it? I thought ... you might know, since you did all this ages ago and, um," he glanced up doeishly, "you've seen... a lot of this kind of thing for real."
 

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"Euripides is not known for writing happy stories," his father pointed out. "But yes, he was in a big war, with people invading Athens. I don't know if he had to choose between those things, though. And yes, I have seen a lot of it myself, for real. I was eighteen when I started on the cursus honorum, as a military tribune serving under Quintus Augustus - he wasn't the emperor then, though. That was all fine and good, but when I was quaestor, the commander of the Praetorian Guard - a man called Clemens - decided that he wanted to be the emperor, and sent his men to kill any friends of Quintus Augustus that he could find. You were just a baby at the time. And I had to choose to leave Rome to keep you and Mama safe, and try to let Quintus know what was happening. The difference between that and Euripides' story is that leaving to keep you safe helped Rome as well, but things a bit like Euripides' story have happened in Rome, too."

Though trust the Greeks to come up with a perfectly good tragedy. They weren't the only ones who had stories like that, though.

"Have you heard of Marcus Junius Brutus, at all?"

They were passing a baker's stall with several tasty looking things for sale, and Aulus paused. "What would you like?

One sweet treat was not going to harm the boy's appetite; Aulus himself could have eaten a horse for lunch at that age and still finished dinner without anyone knowing.

 

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@SharpieTitus listened quietly. He'd heard the story of why Tatta had to leave before, but never from him, for obvious reasons, and hearing it told from his perspective that way was ... sort of eye-opening. Tatta was just like the heroes in the stories from his childhood - which made sense, considering most of them were direct ancestors, some of whom shared his combination of praenomen, nomen and cognomen, but still! 
He'd always told himself that the reasons were noble and he shouldn't be too upset, but now that he knew just how strongly his father felt about that sort of thing, it was a bit easier to feel open with him. Titus would probably have done the same thing.
Of course he would've done the same thing, actually -- it would be the honourable thing to do. Especially if your friend the emperor your commander needed you.  "Yes, I've heard of Marcus Junius Brutus..."
And now he was comparing Marcus Junius Brutus' plot to assassinate Caesar to a Euripidean play! Titus was sure that there were more educated and cooler comparisons to make, because obviously his father had studied more, but he was trying to explain things at his level, which most adults did only if they were being a) awful (something Titus could completely rule out from Aulus) or b) trying to include him in adult things (which was probably happening now).
It was ... so ... good. He almost missed the offer of victuals, though his nose led him to the conclusion that that was what they'd stopped for, anyways -- he made a little 'oh' of surprise and joy, then scrutinized the baker's stall for edibles, checking behind his back as furtively as he could to see if his father approved of his choice.
He wasn't no little punk with no little punk tastes!
Honey cakes ... globuli ... honey cakes ... globuli... placenta! A whole baking sheet of squares of placenta! 
Definitely not little punk tastes. "Before you start on Brutus so that I don't interrupt you, let's have a few squares of placenta, all right?"
His best sweet, wholesome Ganymedean beseeching glance -- small Calpurnia would be proud. Not that he was lacking in the right emotion to put behind it; he just wasn't confident that if he let himself grin like he normally would, it wouldn't come out like some gap-toothed barbarian abomination expression.
... Not that he really minded at tis age if it did. Anything for quality layered dough pastry!
It must be even better here than in Augusta Vindelicorum!

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"Placenta it is," Aulus said, with a quick grin of his own. And we are so not telling your mother about this... Not that Horatia would really mind, so long as Titus finished his dinner, and Aulus didn't think for  second that he wouldn't, being a growing boy.

Aulus paid the stall-holder, who wrapped several squares of placenta in some vine leaves (so that they wouldn't get sticky fingers too quickly), passing them over to the young patrician who was trying to look serious and stoical and not entirely succeeding in his endeavours.

"Will you be all right in carrying that?" he asked. He could carry it if need be; he had bigger hands, after all.

He helped himself to a square, maybe the only one he'd get (not that he minded) and continued, once he'd finished eating, "Marcus Junius Brutus is recent history, only about a hundred years ago. Do you know anything about his ancestor, Lucius Junius Brutus?"

 

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Titus didn't have hands big enough to hold all these pastries, and didn't really want to get any honey on his tunic -- it was water-soluble and all, but he just hated feeling grimy. The urge to be strong and self-sufficient was also firmly entrenched in his psyche, so it was kind of a struggle deciding.
In the end he figured that his father would want him to think practically and only make sacrifices for the sake of social face when they were genuinely important; pastries were not quite so very vital to continued survival as that, though they did make it more fun, so he solemnly handed them off, making brief eye contact as though daring the very gods to find an objection.
Lucius Junius Brutus ... umm, hmm. Oh! "He founded the republic," the boy said solemnly, at length. "He was called Brutus because he pretended to be stupid so that the king wouldn't know that he was upset that he executed a lot of people they were both related to, because I guess Tarquinius really was stupid and didn't think anyone would be, but he really wasn't stupid - it turned out to be an ironic cognomen, like in a story or something. He was just waiting for the right time to, you know, find... found the republic. And the reason that we know that the gods were behind it is because Tarquinius' sons, you know the king's, they went with Brutus to the oracle at Delphi. And they asked her who would be king next, and she said, the first one of you to kiss your mother will be the most powerful one in Rome. So everyone thinks she means the king, and also their actual mother, but Brutus pretended to trip and kissed the ground, like mother earth, and then after he overthrew the monarchy and became the first consul. So it was like a sign. Yeah." 
This somewhat sanitized account wasn't really a product of the educational system so much as it was Titus wanting not to discuss anything too unbecoming (being a young boy, topics like ravishments and takeovers tended to drive him to embellish when he did talk about them, a byproduct of age and also liking to play Romans and Barbarians) -- and just to be extra sure, he took and bit into a square of placenta. Can't drive me into conversational territory I'm bad at sounding like a grownup in if I can't talk!
Just as good as he thought it would be, here. Like ambrosia, by comparison to the stuff out in Raetia... but then that was kind of to be expected, since sweets were always better when the tribe that made them up made them. 
Or maybe things were just best when they were Roman, in general.


 

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"Something like that," Aulus said, able to follow the twists and turns of the explanation mostly only because he knew the story, though there was no mention made of Lucretia. He wondered why he had thought there might be. He accepted the slightly sticky package of placenta, which would be far easier for him to carry with his adult sized hands.

"He made the people swear an oath that they would never have a king again, and his sons broke the oath because they decided to help Tarquinius to regain power. So Lucius had to decide which was more important to him, the new Republic, or the sons who wanted to put a king back in power who hadn't been very good for Rome."

And therein lay the similarity to Euripides' play.

"Sometimes we have to choose to do something very difficult, just because it's the right thing to do," Aulus said, and put his arm around his son's shoulders. "But those sort of choice don't come along very often at all. If you ever have to make a choice like that, you'll know the right thing to do at the time."

 

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It clicked. A little later than it ought to have done, but he was thirteen, and more or less swept up in being parented; when it did, he felt the oddest mix of oh, I'm stupid and wow, I'm pretty clever if I do say so myself
The intellectual side of things was rather quickly sidelined by the aforementioned awareness of sonhood; Titus took another bite of placenta and unconsciously sidled closer to Aulus' hip so as to be squished closer to him, from where he could probably better absorb the important message about difficult choices. Yeah.
"I guess it's good that that sort of thing doesn't happen often. I hope I don't have to make choices like that any time soon... I'm kind of not sure what they might be, but as of now, um, when I have to decide important things I sort of freeze up for a while. I think it would be pretty bad to freeze up if I had to decide anything that decided anything about someone's life, you know ... ?"
The confession took a bit of effort, but less than earlier -- he was a broadly trusting sort of child, even if there was a deep-rooted suspicion in there somewhere that happy things were temporary, born of craving stability for so long.
If he'd made a couple mistakes or rambled a few times and his father was still here, then that meant that he was generally forgiving enough that Titus could loosen up just a bit.
"Where did you get all that courage and decisiveness? I bet it took a lot. I've just been assuming it comes with age, but I'm already thirteen years old and I can't even quickly decide that I want placenta, you know? Like, what if you don't like placenta, and then I only find out because I'm here eating and you want a snack too but you don't like mine and," quieter for Aulus' dignity's sake, "you don't want to openly buy like a huge box of globuli for just yourself?"
Another bite -- it was good darn pastry, and it helped ground him when he was talking about something uncertain like this, like a socially acceptable fidgeting outlet. 
 

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"Well, some of it comes with age - just growing up and learning about things," Aulus said. "And some comes with experience - I had already been a military tribune for several years before becoming quaestor, so I had training in making decisions. And when you start out as a tribune, there are people who can advise you about things. Even the Emperor asks for advice before deciding things."

He smiled and made sure to shorten his stride so that his son wasn't going to have to jog to keep up.

"And I had been a praetor before I became governor of Raetia, too, so that I had experience when it came to making some of the decisions governors need to make. And sometimes there are two perfectly good choices - like do you want placenta or globuli - and both have acceptable outcomes. I left Rome when you were a baby because Clemens had already killed some senators who were friends with Quintus Augustus, and if I stayed, I would probably be killed too. And I couldn't take you and Mama with me because there were soldiers by every gate and they would have stopped us. So I just took Felix with me, and we decided to go north because we knew that most people trying to escape would go south, towards Ostia or the Via Appia. You should ask him how we got out, one day."

Felix might be just as much a stranger to Titus as Aulus was, despite the family's having been together for the last four years, because he was Aulus' body slave. On the other hand, he was a slave and Aulus could remember being closer to his father's slaves than to his father when he was a boy himself.

 

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"I bet it's a crazy story," Titus said appreciatively, finishing a square of placenta and reaching for another from Aulus' hands; it proved a bit much to both take big steps to keep up with his father and also coordinate things, so he was glad when Aulus slowed down a little bit.
Indeed, he'd taken just a bit easier to Felix than to Aulus on return, though that still wasn't saying much; he was around and doing not-business-stuff a little more often, and he had none of the mystique that Aulus-as-father had about him. Felix said once, too, that he sort-of remembered him from when he was just a wee Titulus, which helped the process of making friends a little bit because people your parents trusted that far back were probably good for you. 
Felix was also quiet but not in the really judgmental sort of way that some adults with important stuff to do could be; Felix quietness was more like a curious quietness, like listening all the time. Or maybe it was just that he was a slave in general?
Titus still felt a little self-conscious about asking him for anything other than basic quick things that didn't eat up too much time -- not because he was under any delusions about relative rank or anything, but just because he was so ... big, and always seemed to have more of his stuff together than Titus did. More stuff to do, and so on.
He never told anyone because it was probably silly, all things considered. Even the small Calpurnia would laugh at him.
"How long do you think it takes to find a friend like Felix? I'm not really good at making them yet," said Titus, just a bit glumly. "There's Calpurnia, but she's a sister, so that's different."
The truth was that his lack of a strong, internalized secure base from which to explore his world meant that he found it intimidating to let people get too close -- there was always something he wasn't telling someone, which meant that he'd never really forged a profound bond with anyone other than his sibling, whose closeness to him was mostly a function of the fact she was the small Calpurnia and those were little and fwubsy (which was for sure a word) and needed him. 
Already people he knew talked about 'liking' girls or boys or whatever in some mystical, arcane kind of 'that way'; he didn't get it. What did they mean, that way? There was just liking, like you meet and you go oh that's a neat person, and then there was brother-type liking, like he liked the small Calpurnia even though sometimes she was annoying, and then there was parent type liking, like Mama liked him, and then there was marriage liking, like Grandfather and Grandmother, or like his mother and father. Also drama liking, like when someone in a story liked someone else's wife and wanted for her to be his wife and they couldn't just share because it was illegal. Surely that was already enough likings for people? What was this 'like that' liking that had his playmates segregating themselves into single-gender groups to whisper about it?
Was he just ... dumb?
No, he had some vague inkling of an idea, but it hadn't quite come in yet, like his understanding of poetry.
 

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"I daresay Felix has a much better story to tell than I do," Aulus said. His slave would probably be able to share it better with Titus than he could, too; there was a bond between slave and young free children that there could not be between the free children and their own parents.

"How long to find a friend like Felix?" he said, repeating the question to give himself time to think. "Felix is verna; Grandtata owns his parents and he was born in the household. I chose to take him when I had to leave because I thought people would recognise the body-slave I had at the time - people don't really look at slaves, but if you are counting on that, it will be the one time that someone recognises the slave and then the master. I didn't really know him before that, apart from knowing that he was a good worker, and conscientious."

It might be time to think about finding a body-slave for his son, though he wasn't sure he wanted to trawl the markets for one such. Perhaps one of his friends had a suitable slave they would be willing to sell - better still, perhaps his father had a suitable slave in the villa at Baiae?

"You've moved around a lot, and that doesn't make it easy to make friends," Aulus said, acknowledging the fact, and hoping that renewing his own connections would  also broaden his son's social life. It was important for him to make friends, of course - suitable friends, though Titus displayed a wisdom beyond his years when it came to his social circle.

"Perhaps I should find you a body-slave of your own," he said, giving voice to his thought of a moment before.

 

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