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August 76

 

Teutus had found and secured the use of a warehouse near the river's edge, located between the Aventine and where the river swept around Regio XIII, after passing Tiber Island, the Probus Bridge and the remains of the bridge defended in antiquity by Horatius. It was a good-sized warehouse, easily acessible from the river, with its own wharf, and easily secured (though Teutus would ensure that he had a couple of trustworthy guards on the site at all times - he was not going to have a guard or two there only when there was something valuable on the premises, and give that fact away). There were other warehouses nearby and he neither knew nor cared what was stored in any of them, save only that their presence would help disguise his own goods should anyone come looking with less than honest intentions.

He was on the site today to ensure that the latest shipment was stored properly, dressed as befit his station as the owner of the business in tunic and pallium and with a commanding presence (if he didn't particularly feel commanding he could at least look it, and followed his father's example as far as appearances went).

Some of his goods would be sold directly, some via auction (he knew a good auctioneer who would get decent prices and not charge exhorbitantly for his services). All in all, trade was good, and he could present his father with a good report of his dealings.

He turned as his clerk murmured, "Domine, there's someone to see you..."

There was indeed. "How can I help you?"

 

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He had been in Rome almost a year now and he felt like he wasn't getting anywhere closer to getting to know his family. After the disastrous dinner at Tertius' house, Wulfric had gone back to the small one-room insula he lived in, to think. It was quite the contrast to his father's magnificent house, and yet, it had felt so cold there. It never felt cold in the more crude houses they had at home, not like that anyway. Charis was sweet, he thought, and his little brother too. Teutus had seemed strangely annoyed, although he felt they might actually get along, if he had the chance to speak to him. And they had agreed to talk more, but he never found out where Teutus lived and he was never at Tertius' house when Wulfric returned to it. He had been back a few times. Tried speaking with his father, tried finding something they had in common, but he found very little. The only thing was, that he thought his father seemed rather stubborn. And since Wulfric kept coming back, wasn't that a sign of him having the very same trait? He didn't want to give up. But he also knew he had to go home sometime. Now however, summer would end soon and there was no way he'd travel during fall and winter. The roads, even the Roman roads, were horrible at that time of the year. 

So he'd stay in Rome. He'd managed to talk to some of the slaves at his father's house and found out a little more about Teutus. And at last he found the warehouse in the outskirts of central Rome, near the river. He'd figured out how to find his way around Rome by now. But he still worked at that warehouse at the markets, lifting heavy stuff, but also more than often helping out with the managing of it all. They had realized he actually had a head for that sort of thing and his Latin had definitely improved since he arrived. So now he'd meet his brother again. 

His clothes were more Roman now. He couldn't keep on wearing those heavy, woolen garments that he'd worn when he arrived. He did like his trousers though, and the half-long tunica. Today he wore the best set again, the dark green tunica and a belt with a purse of course, and matching dark green breeches. It was still warm out, so he needed no cloak. He made his way inside and managed to contact someone working in the building, who could take him to see Teutus. He hoped his brother wouldn't hate him for doing it like this. But how else would they ever get to know each other? 

"I think we will find out." Wulfric said to Teutus' question, regarding how Teutus could help him, "I hope, you have not forgot me?" He added with a friendly smile. He came here with an open mind. He hoped Teutus understood that.

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Despite everything, Teutus had not seen his brother - his other brother, the son of Tertius with some German woman - since that disastrous dinner party where they had first met. He had thought that Wulfric might have returned to Germania, disappointed to find that his father was not the paragon he had probably imagined, and his Roman family were a messed up bunch of misfits.

But he was here, now, and Teutus wasn't quite sure what to think. Well, he was not going to let his father's past deeds worry at his thoughts and emotions any more than they had all his life already, and none of the family dirty laundry was Wulfric's fault.

His smile might be a little reserved but his words were genuine. "Wulfric! I have not forgotten you - it was a very memorable first impression, after all. Let's go to my office, it's a better place to talk - no, Rubio, he doesn't mean any harm. You will have to learn that some people are allowed to be here, especially during the day. They might want to buy what we are selling, after all."

The guard settled down, still looking suspicious, but Teutus ignored him as he led Wulfric into his office. "Wine? I don't have beer, unfortunately; it's not very popular here."

 

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He was glad to see Teutus smiling, although he did note that it was not a full smile and perhaps not a honest one either. But it was welcoming, at least, and better than an angry face or a shocked face. And his words were also better than being yelled at or something like that. He had not forgotten their first meeting. Disastrous, but they did seem to find common ground, discussing trading and Wulfric thought that could still be useful. Think, if he could set up something like that before returning home. And now he had until next spring, so there was plenty of time.

 His brother even remembered his name and easily brushed over their first meeting. Then suggested they went to his office. Wulfric nodded, as Teutus kept talking and then he followed the other through the warehouse and to the office, where Teutus offered him wine.

 “I drink wine now. At home… wine is luxury. Would be popular there too.” He said with a smile, “But I still like beer… ale. If is well made.” He added and looked at Teutus, honestly feeling a bit relieved. Teutus seemed much friendlier than their father! “I am glad you did not tell me go away. To go away.”

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"Have a seat," Teutus said. A slave came in to pour some wine for both of them before being dismissed again.

"I should apologise for that dinner," he said, once they were alone again. "It was not your fault, what happened there - I didn't know I had another brother, and nobody told me until I walked into the room and saw you. For me to tell you to go away now would be rude, and I don't want you to feel bad for something that's not your fault."

He couldn't really say much more without sounding as if he was blaming his father, which he wouldn't mind doing, except his family's issues belonged in the family and not aired in front of complete strangers even if the stranger was related by blood.

"If you like beer, you should go down to the Egyptian area around the temple of Isis and Serapis - they brew beer, although it might not be quite the same as you're used to at home," he added. Maybe Wulfric knew that, but if he didn't, he might appreciate it - and Rome was a big city that even people like Teutus who had lived there for years didn't know all the different places in it.

 

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Wulfric took a seat when invited, thanking Teutus for the invitation to do so, and quietly observed the slave come and leave. Then Teutus began apologizing for the dinner many moons ago. He explained how he hadn't known about Wulfric when he walked in, and he didn't want to be rude and didn't want Wulfric to feel bad. Now he felt even more relieved.

"Thing I learn is, children do not choose parents. But you are kind, Teutus. I am glad you are like this." He said with a friendly smile and brought the cup of wine to his lips to taste it. It still had a somewhat sour taste to him, honestly he did like beer more and didn't always understand why people were so fond of wine, at home. Maybe because it was exclusive and luxurious, because they didn't make it there. Maybe that's why it was popular. Teutus was reading his mind, when he suggested where Wulfric should go to find good beer.

"Maybe I will go to there. I don't think I have been. What is the region?" Rome was a huge city and while he knew how to find his way around now, had learned more or less the layout of the city with the different regions and hills, he hadn't seen everything yet. He bet people could live in Rome their entire life and not see it all. 

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"I shall have to remember that," Teutus said. He certainly hadn't chosen his father! Tertius did have his good points, but Teutus didn't always see those, especially when he was so conscious of all the other things. "Kindness... helps, it makes things easier," he added, remembering another conversation with someone who was not a native Latin speaker who had likewise thought he was kind.

"The temple of Isis and Serapis is in Regio Tres - do you know the big new amphitheatre, by any chance?" If he didn't, that would be pretty easy to find, anyway. "You'll find it easily enough, though. From the Forum Romanum, head towards the new amphitheatre. Pass it to the left, so you're between it and the Palatine hill, and when you come to the fork in the road, take the left-hand fork. The temple will be on your right a little bit before you reach the Porta Querquetulana - the gate in the Servian Wall. Anywhere round there should be somewhere you can get beer. Egyptian beer, anyway. I have no idea at all how similar it is to Germanian beer!"

 

@Atrice

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He could hardly blame Teutus for how their father was like, and how that dinner had turned out. And he didn’t want Teutus to feel bad about it, so he told his brother that he shouldn’t feel like that, in his own words of course. That children did not choose their parents. And you could still be kind, no matter what your father was like. Teutus mused about kindness making things easier and Wulfric nodded with a smile.

 “This is my experience too.” He replied, glad that he and his brother apparently had something in common here. That it wouldn’t do any good to not be kind to someone. Especially someone you barely knew. But he wanted to know Teutus and maybe that would go better than with his father. He found Teutus now, after all. Now they could stay in touch, should Teutus want it. Wulfric hoped so, but only time would tell.

 And now Teutus explained to him where to find good beer in Rome! Wulfric paid attention, nodding when Teutus mentioned something to him he did know. He had to find the new amphitheatre and then just keep left, it seemed.

 “I think Egyptian beer may be different. I think maybe better.” He said with a little laugh, “But I will find out.” It was fun that they would discuss such a thing as beer and drinks! There was more to Teutus than what met the eye, he was friendly and happy to share knowledge… “Thank you for advice. But… I did not come to talk about drinks. Even if it is not bad topic.” He then continued, “I come to know you. See what you do. This is your place? Your business?”

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"Yes, this is my business," Teutus said. "Well, it's part of it, anyway. There's a warehouse in Ostia too, to store things that come in across the Mare Nostrum, and then they're brought up here by boat because that's safer and easier than by road. Cheaper, too, even though it's not that far away really. And then they're stored here to be sold. Some things I sell directly, and some things I sell at auction. I am trying to cultivate an exclusive market, to sell expensive things to the very best people. Do you want to see?"

Cheaper things would be sold more directly from a shop in the nearby Emporium Magnum, but for the exclusive wares, people would have to come here and talk with Teutus himself. Though he was not silly enough to leave valuable wares just lying around where anyone could see them and decide to try their luck with a break-in or anything.

@Atrice

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Teutus seemed very happy to talk about his business and Wulfric did his best to pay attention. The names Ostia and Mare Nostrum were not new to him anymore, but he had to remind himself what they were. Ostia was the harbour city and Mare Nostrum was the sea. He'd yet to go there himself, but he wanted to, sometime. He couldn't remember if he'd ever seen the sea, so he probably hadn't. He had lived most of his life in the Chatti area, with travels to visit other tribes in Germania sometimes and also the Roman cities on the other side of the border. But he travelled to Rome across the land. He hadn't been near the sea. Right, Teutus was talking.

"You sound like you do much." Wulfric said, when Teutus had finished talking, "If you will show me, I will see expensive things. What is expensive in Rome?" He wondered curiously, he recalled they talked about amber being popular here, but what else? 

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"There are lots of things that are considered to be expensive in Rome," Teutus said. "A lot of spices come from very far away, which makes them expensive. Glass from Egypt, because it takes skill to make it and it's very delicate. There's a type of red pottery called Samian ware that's also expensive, for a similar reason. A lot of things are expensive just because they come from a very long way away and they're not available in big quantities, for one reason or another. Rarity pushes the price up - it must be the same in Germania too?"

He wondered what the Germans prized - he knew that they had amber that far north, though whether they traded for it or produced it themselves was something he didn't know. Amber would be very rare in Rome, but it was not completely unknown.

"Let's go and have a look, shall we?" he suggested.

 

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Wulfric listened with interest, while Teutus spoke about what was expensive here. Spices, glass and a certain type of pottery. Wulfric nodded when Teutus asked if it was the same with what was expensive in Germania - when things were rare. He nodded, "It is the same. Almost. But we trade different. We don't use coin. Sometimes metal, but not coin. We trade wares. Useful goods, usually." He explained, hoping Teutus would understand, although he found that many Romans did not understand. They were used to the coin in Rome, they weren't used to think that one good ox could be the same price as a sword or a cup of glass or silver. And the more you had of any of those, the more wealthy you were.

But he followed Teutus to see the goods, interested in seeing that. Maybe he could come and work here, instead of the green warehouse at the great market. He'd much rather work with his brother, after all. If Teutus would have him. But he was friendly so far, so maybe he would.

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Teutus had heard of that but still found it a strange concept - but then, what else could you expect of barbarians!

"So, what sort of things would your people find valuable - I remember you mentioned iron, I think, and glass?" He had little idea what else German barbarians might consider to be useful, that they could obtain from Rome and its empire.

"I am still importing things like olive oil, which is the amphorae there," he said, as he led his brother into the warehouse. "And cotton over there - I don't want them close by each other because of the risk of fire, even though we are right by the river. You do know about cotton? It's a cloth from Egypt, finer and smoother than linen - though even Egyptian linen is very fine."

The smaller and more valuable wares were deeper in the warehouse, through a locked door to which Teutus had the key.

 

@Atrice

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He nodded when Teutus wondered what his people found valuable, "Iron and glass, yes... metal, of course. Like gold, silver. We also like good pottery. And wine." He added with a chuckle, "I like beer more, but many like wine. It is popular." He explained, and Teutus spoke of olive oil and pointed to some amphorae. They didn't really use such amphorae in Germania either, but he was used to them in Rome now. Teutus then showed him something called cotton, that could catch fire, but it was a kind of cloth. Wulfric touched it and Teutus was right.

"We do not have cotton. I never see this before." He said, it did really feel smooth and soft to his fingers, more so than wool and even silk. This felt different under his fingers, "This is expensive?" What a feature it would be, if he came home next year with clothes made from cotton. Everyone would think him the most well-dressed man in the village.

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Teutus considered the question. "It's a bit more expensive than linen - it's made from a plant that grows in Egypt, but it's easier to make then linen. So... I don't think it's very expensive, but you won't see the poorer people wearing cotton tunics. Rich people and maybe even some of their slaves. The more important slaves, anyway, like maybe the secretary belonging to a senator. It's very good in summer when it's hot - the only thing that is as good is very fine linen, which is just as expensive."

He looked at his brother in consideration. "If you know anyone in Rome who can sew, you can have some as a gift. I don't think you're likely to find our summers very easy if you're used to the weather in  the north. It does get very hot here in summer."

So hot that all those who could generally left the city to bake while they spent the hottest months in their country villas.

Sending iron north was something Teutus was not sure of; a lot of iron came from the northern provinces in the first place and it would surely be idiotic to transport it all the way from Britannia or Gallia to Rome only to send it back north to Germania. But glassware came from south of Rome and would easily be sent north without a doubling back in its journey.

"Do you know about ivory?" he asked, opening the door but pausing in the doorway.

 

@Atrice

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Wulfric fell silent again as he listened to Teutus telling him about cotton. He didn't think he'd seen it in Rome, but maybe he had, and simply didn't know what it was. He knew wool and linen and even fabric made from nettles. He also knew what silk was, or at least, he knew it. But cotton was new to him and he thought it very interesting. Teutus explained it was more expensive than linen, because it came from Egypt. Poor people didn't wear it although it sounded like a useful material. Wulfric could just imagine his sisters' faces if he brought some cotton fabric with him home to them.

Teutus then offered some to Wulfric, "I do not think yet, I know people who sew. Maybe you know? You are kind, if you gift me. I will not forget." He would have to find something for Teutus too. At least he'd survived this summer in Rome, but it had been very hot. At least people here also wore just long tunics and nothing underneath, just like the summers back home, so it wasn't that different. You didn't have to wear breeches all year around. He returned his attention to Teutus, who now mentioned ivory.

"Maybe? It like bone, but better? I will know when I see." He thought he knew it, but he had to see it to be sure.

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"Something like that," Teutus said. "It can be carved into all sorts of things - I've seen sword hilts made of it, and jewellery, and all sorts of decorative things."

The smaller room smelt richly of spices... Teutus kept the smaller and most expensive things in here, from spices to glassware, perfumes - and, at the moment, some ivory. Three full elephant tusks and some part tusks, brought all the way from Nubia, through Egypt and across the sea.

"It lasts better than bone, and can be polished very smooth," he said. "I think it is similar to amber, in its qualities if not its origins or appearance."

He wasn't sure of Wulfric's ulterior motives in coming to Rome, but this room was kept locked, Teutus had the only key, and the warehouse was well guarded. And there wasn't all that much of value in here except the ivory right now, or Teutus might have thought twice about letting his half-brother in here.

 

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Wulfric nodded at Teutus' explanation of what ivory was and then he saw it, the large tusks of an animal he'd barely ever seen. Maybe in the arena once, he'd been there a few times, just to find out what the spectacle was all about. Elephants were almost like mythical creatures to him. He'd seen images of them, heard stories about them and he'd be able to tell about them back home. But he didn't know a lot about ivory except for what you could make from it. Now he'd seen the impressive tusks up close and the beasts too, he understood.

"Definitely not in origin, amber come from sea. But I know ivory. I have seen it on sword hilts. Maybe even have one home." At home in Germania, that was. He didn't bring it to Rome, but he thought he had one. He'd inherited it, he knew its tale. It had come to his tribe many years before he was born, after that infamous battle against his father's ancestor, the Roman general Varus.

"You sell this? It must be expensive. It would be where I am from too." He explained to Teutus, believing it might actually be possible to set up some kind of trading business with his half-brother. Maybe amber for ivory? Since Teutus said it had some of the same qualities.

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So Wulfric knew about ivory - Teutus thought it must be even more expensive in Germania because that was so far from Afrvica where it originated. It was pricey even in Rome, due to distance and the skill it took to obtain it; it was not at all easy to kill an elephant. Apparently the beasts had armoured skin or something, and spears and arrows merely stung like a mosquito would sting a man.

"Yes, I sell this. Some people want all of it, some want smaller more manageable pieces that they can work into jewellery or - whatever their commission is for. I've seen all sorts of things made from ivory - bangles, combs, ornaments, hair pins - sword hilts, of course. Even small statues and votive offerings, things like that."

Some sort of business venture with Wulfric might well be beneficial to both of them; Teutus could get some of the more luxury goods to send north and in return he could receive amber, furs, wool maybe - did the Germans have good wool? They were bound to have all sorts of useful things, anyway.

A business venture between them would hopefully see them both profit, and that couldn't be a bad thing.

 

@Atrice

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He continued to listen with interest, while Teutus spoke more about this very special material that was ivory. It really was special to look at when new, he'd only seen it on the sword hilts, but apparently in Rome, it could be used for all sorts of things. It was very interesting. Maybe he should get some and make a present for his youngest brother or maybe for Charis, out of it. Or rather, have someone do it for him. Ivory was far too expensive to work with, when you weren't experienced. He could also get something for his mother, perhaps. She might like a hair pin or a comb out of it. They had combs made out of bone at home, but this was more precious.

"It is very interesting material." Wulfric commented, carefully running his fingers over the smooth surface of the tusk. Then he looked at his brother, "How expensive? You think I can buy some? Or maybe I am not wealthy enough, in Rome." Not that it was a regret or anything, it was more a statement. At home he was, his grandfather was the king or leader of their people, after all. But in Rome, he was just another foreigner from a faraway land to the North, that the Romans had even barely conquered. He wasn't considered wealthy here. And he spent his coin on keeping the small insula he had, and food and fresh clothes. It wasn't like he earned a lot, working in a warehouse. But he'd like to buy some ivory, he thought.

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Teutus thought for a moment and gave the price that he would sell raw ivory for; of course it would be more than that once carved into whatever because the craftsman would want to make money from it, too - skill was always worth money, after all.

"If you want to buy any of it, I won't charge you that much, though," he said. He would still add a mark-up but it would be somewhat less; he would not take advantage of his friends or his relations. "I can offer you credit, too, if you want some and can't afford it outright." He would be fair, he was not going to gain a reputation for taking advantage of other people but nor would he gain a reputation for being taken advantage of, either. Though senators were more or less fair game; as a breed, they seemed to think that the more expensive something was, the better the quality and the more valuable it was.

"Where are you working, at the moment?" he asked. He could probably teach his brother at least something of his business, which would be good if Wulfric wanted to return home to Germania because that would mean that Teutus would have someone there he could trade with for goods from that part of the world.

 

@Atrice

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Wulfric had been Rome for a good while now and understood prices and coins more or less. So when Teutus named the price, he knew that it was indeed very expensive. And that was the raw material, not carved into anything. Much like amber, he imagined, it would be worth more if turned into something else. But Teutus said he wouldn't charge so much, if Wulfric would buy ivory. And he'd even offer that Wulfric could wait with paying.

He smiled at his Teutus, grateful to have found such a friendly and open brother here in Rome, "You are very kind, Teutus. I will buy now, though." He wouldn't make a promise to pay something and then maybe never be able to afford it, or maybe leave Rome before paying. He knew the Romans did this, but it was a strange way to do it, Wulfric thought. It relied heavily on the fact that you trusted the one you did business with. Of course it was nice of Teutus to trust him that much, but he would prefer to get the deal done instead of waiting. Teutus wondered where he worked then.

"I work at warehouse at large market. Emporium Magnum. They sell vegetable and fruit." He said, "I help oversee some, now. They see I can." Wulfric was glad that those he worked for saw such potential in his skills. Even if he might not stay in Rome for good.

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"Well, that's good," Teutus said. Someone else unknown to them both, unrelated to them both, thought that Wulfric was a good worker and capable of overseeing others. That was good to know (though Teutus would make discreet enquiries to double-check the simple statement). If he was going to go into business with his brother, better it was with someone capable than someone who was merely a follower.

Though by all accounts, Wulfric was a chieftain or a chieftain's son or something, back at his home, so of course he should be able to command others.

"Shall we go back to my office, then?" he asked. "I'm sure you didn't come here just to talk about my business, after all."

 

@Atrice

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He smiled when Teutus suggested to go back to his office to talk, "You are right, I come to know you." As he'd mentioned when he first arrived today. So he followed Teutus back to the office. He was very used to how things were done in Rome now. Back at home, they didn't have special rooms like that, for special purposes. Well there was a stable for the animals of course, and minor houses for different kinds of production and storage. But an office? There was no such things in his grandfather's house.

Once there, he continued, "We are brothers. Our father is... special? But I see you are not like him. Or like father's brother, uncle. I meet him too. I know some, about you, but not much. Will you tell me, about your life?" Of course Wulfric would be happy to share stories too, but since he was the one who sought out Teutus, he was obviously the most curious one. The dinner with their father was a good while ago now and as far as he knew, Teutus had not tried to find him. That didn't mean Teutus didn't want to know him, but he understood that his brother was still surprised to meet Wulfric. So it was a good thing that Wulfric was used to taking the lead. 

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"Our father is..." Teutus made a slightly exasperated gesture. He was not willing to denigrate his father to a near-total stranger (even if that stranger was his half-brother!) but he didn't exactly have a lot of good things to say about their father. "He likes to control everything and that often means he doesn't tell people things that maybe they ought to know."

Tertius was good at his political role - very good at it, in fact. It was just his family life that was completely messed up. He had four children by four different mothers, and only one of them was legitimately a Roman citizen and Antonia was a girl. He would probably think differently if Antonia had been born a son - if Antonia had been born a son, Teutus would still be a slave and would never have even received a promise of freedom.

"There's not much to say about me. I was born a slave in my grandfather's house - before our father set up his own home. When Father moved out, after he came home from Germania, he took me with him to be his secretary. I was freed about a year and a half ago, just before Charis' baby was born."

Probably his brother would think him contemptible, that he had been a slave. Well, it wasn't as if most Romans didn't think that, even if they hid it.

 

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