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Sestia Vaticana

To Gaius Sestius Vaticanus, Proconsul of Africa

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Early March 75AD

Beside the desk in her study lay several balls of scrunched up papyrus. Their number threatened to become like a stone drift as more sheets were scrunched up with a hiss of frustration and consigned to the floor. A slave hurriedly tried to collect as many of them as they could to dispose of them but was too nervous of getting close to the domina who clearly was not in a good mood.

Sestia had every reason to be in a good mood and, for the avoidance of doubt, she was. It was on account of the fact that she was in a good mood that she was willingly choosing to write to her father. However, what she was trying to write she did not know how best to phrase it. She had recently made promises to a certain someone that she would do this. Whilst she was sure he would not care a jot whether she did it or not, she felt honour bound to still do so, especially because it seemed to her that her promise had been sealed with a kiss, so to speak. She was fully aware of how this letter might go down. If her father, who it sometimes felt made a point of trying to stifle her ideas and happiness, wanted to he could certainly cause trouble. But she still thought it was worth it. When she had finally finished it she would make an offering at a shrine to Fortuna before she delivered it to the messenger.

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To Gaius Sestius Vaticanus, Proconsul of Africa, from Sestia Vaticana his daughter. I greet you well.

You will I am sure be aware from the letters of your own agents in Rome that the children and I have arrived safely in the city after a swift and mercifully uneventful passage of the Mare Nostrum. We have taken residence in the Domus Afinii Gallii and, as per our agreement, I have begun to use the funds allocated to me under the terms of my late husband's will to make the residence suitable and becoming not only as a family home but also as the ancestral home of my children who, of course, are the ultimate beneficiaries of the place and in whose benefit I do this and all things.

As soon a possible after our return to the capital I did, as you requested, bring myself and the children to the Augustus' salutatio at the Palatine. It was with the goddess Fortuna's blessing and at the merciful condescension of our wonderful Augustus that we were not only admitted but actually afforded the honor of an audience. The Augustus publicly welcomed myself and the children on whom he has bestowed the great honor of being invited to join the select tutorship ground of the Imperial children and those specially chosen by the Augustus himself. They are to start immediately. This, he said, was done out of love for you which, in full hearing of the assembled court, he spoke of highly and in the warmest words and regards. I, of course, made sure to impart to him your undying devotion, esteem, loyalty and love. These were well received and I can assure you that, in all matters, you are surely close to the Augustus' heart and it is my deepest hopes that the children will come to have a similar place in the hearts of the sons of the Augustus.

I have been blessed since my return to have met with the friendship and support of a great number of distinguished and noble personages who have greatly eased my transition back into life in the capital. They have also proved invaluable in assisting me in difficult times. I have made the acquaintance of a senator and general (whom you may have heard of?), Aulus Calpurnius Praetexatus and his wife, Horatia Justina, who was known to me in childhood. Aulus Calpurnius is recently returned from Noricum and the word in Rome is that he is tipped for the consulship in the next year. He plans great civic works in Rome and has the blessing of the Augustus for this which is a mark of great distinction. He has children of an age with mine. I have also met with, and received the kind assistance, of Lucius Cassius Longinus, of undeniably noble house and who is recently returned from great generalship in Britannia. He has been most kind to the boys who, I think, will learn much from him and his stories of traditional Roman virtues and military matters. I have also received much kind assistance from Titus Sulpicius Rufus, also of noble house and who is recently returned from postings in Dacia. You cannot say that I have not been keeping good, honourable and noble company!

I greet you well and have sent this letter in enquiring after your health, hoping all is settled and you remain in good spirits. The children send their warmest wishes and miss their grandpapa dearly. They will surely continue to write to you by themselves. I have not yet made the journey to visit my brother but intend to do so shortly and will send you his news and those of his family.

Your daughter,

Sestia Vaticana

POST SCRIPT

Finally, I had quite forgotten to mention that Lucius Cassius Longinus mentioned that he is hoping to run for Praetor in the new senatorial year. He and his family have received marks of distinction from the Augustus and his predecessors which surely have overturned the ill mark left by the crazed actions of his forebear of ill fame. With this, and on account of having one of the noblest names in the state, I am sure he will carry the day. Nevertheless, I had said that you still carry great clout with a number of the backbenchers on account of your continuing importance, dignitas and gravitas. You are surely still a man to command authority and respect and I cannot imagine that has changed! I said I would ask you whether you would endorse his running to add to it the luminous luster of your name. With that, his candidacy would surely be unstoppable and you would surely win yourself a loving and obedient friend.

At last as happy as she ever would be with it, she set her seal upon it and handed it to the nervous slave for placing in the outgoing post. Now, she must away to offer to Fortuna...

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