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I give that you might give


Ovinia Camilla
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October, 76AD

Ovinia Camilla was faithful in the way that all well-bred patrician women were faithful. She worshipped the lares with her family, she attended the festivals that honoured the Gods and Goddesses throughout the calendar year, and she made sure to make offerings and sacrifices at momentous occasions. Yet she was also fickle - she moaned when she had to interrupt her leisure time with worship, she paid lip service at festivals and she often forgot the minor deities. Bona Dea, however, was different.

Ever since her youth when she'd heard of the Clodius scandal the Goddess had intrigued her. She had never been invited to the December rites, if they were still practiced, but she made her own devotions frequently. The touch of scandal that Bona Dea offered only made her more enticing...besides, she had a good practical reason for frequent visits; prayers to protect her chastity, and offerings for healing of her mothers ills were hardly prayers her father was going to refuse. The fact that men were barred from its walls, likewise, gave her comfort. She needed a few hours reprieve from moping over the men in her life. Today the offering had been a white dove that had been sacrificed, and after muttering through a few cursory prayers, ending of course with 'I give that you might give', she nimbly jumped to her feet and made to exit the temple. 

Pulling down her palla which sheathed her hair within the sacred space, she blinked into the autumn sunshine. The days were growing colder, but there were a few more weeks until she'd be forced to wrap up warm by her parents, and stay inside until the winter chill passed. Lingering on the steps, she let out a sigh - watching as the cold air clouded her breath in front of her. She didn't want  to go home yet; she had slaves to chastise and lists to organise in lieu of her mother who had taken to her bed again. She glanced around, looking for a distraction, determined to get a few more hours of fun out of the day...

 

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The Piscina Publica was down the Palatine Hill to the south, through a region of expensive domii and broad streets. As well as the eponymous public pool, it contained a wealth of balneae of varying sizes, both public and private, and Tiberius had decided to try one that had been recommended to him. Sometimes a change was as good as a feast, and the baths were a simple enough change, one which relaxed and gave a chance to unwind.

The region also contained the temple of Dona Dea, the good mother, Goddess of women, of both fertility and chastity, and of the people as a whole. Unusual, in that only women were permitted within her walls, where they might make blood sacrifices as they could nowhere else, and the details of her rites were hidden from men. At least they had been, until the Clodius scandel. Curiosity truly did kill the cat, and satisfaction didn't bring it back, at least not in terms of the goddess's respectability. Tiberius wasn't sure whether it was amusing or exhasperating that some men couldn't simply leave some few things to their women.

He glanced up thoughtfully at the temple as he walked by, slaves and Praetorians in tow, and was surprised to recognise a figure on the steps, though perhaps he should not have been. "Ovinia Camilla." He called out with a smile, having met her at the party last month. Interesting that she openly patrionised the good mother's temple, though from the impression that he'd had of her at the party, perhaps it should not have been. There was some odd contrariness there, or so it seemed. "I trust you are well this bright if brisk day."

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Ovinia glanced to her left and her face briefly registered a look of surprise as her name was called. She had not been expecting to see an imperial, and certainly not one that had graciously hosted her and her fellow youths at that peculiar party the preceding month. Surprise quickly turned to delight and a warm smile tugged at her lips. She hadn't much of an opportunity to speak with him that night or - at least - she hadn't wanted to interrupt the moon-eyes and practically audible heart flutters going on between himself and Horatia Sosia. She might have been a little jealous, but she wasn't cruel. 

"Salve, Tiberius Claudius Sabucius." Her smile turned to a grin as she nimbly descended the temple steps, "I'm well, thank you - enjoying the last of the autumn sun before the season changes and my fingers freeze into blocks of ice whenever I leave my domus." Chuckling she finally made her way completely down to by his side, her bodyslave dutifully following silently behind, alongside a brawnier, red-faced Germanic slave her father had procured since the incident with that maniac with a knife. "And you? Venturing anywhere in particular or simply a trip out of the Palace to see some sights?" She glanced behind him to the stream of slaves and Praetorian's, she didn't know whether she'd delight in the attention should she have a similar entourage, or whether she'd find it a deep nuisance. 

 

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Tiberius paused, waiting for Ovinia as she descended the steps, his entourage pausing behind him. He might have been amused, had he known Ovinia's ponderings on their presence; to him they were simply a fact of life. She however was something of an intrigue, and not without her own train. He'd received a very mixed impression of her at the party at the palace, mostly through the eyes of others, and had been curious as to the nature of the young woman herself. Perhaps the Good Goddess had granted him and opportunity to find out.

"Doing much the same." He admitted."Enjoying the last warmth and a little space from the Palace, though I am headed generally in the direction of the Palatine Hill. Will you walk with me?" He asked. "Unless you had other plans?" She had said that she was out enjoying the day and might not yet be ready to head home. He didn't want to interfere with that enjoyment. Young women of high status were often short on freedoms.

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She arched a brow and inclined her head, "Of course." It wasn't every day a Prince of Rome invited you for a stroll, after all. She started in step with him, her voice light as she spoke; "And my plans involve visiting the Temple of Vesta, so," She glanced over her shoulder to survey the stream of praetorian's and slaves with an impish smile on her lips before she turned her face back to glance at him, "Considering we're walking the same way, I'm more than happy to have an escort." 

Wrapping her palla further around her shoulders to keep out the worst of the chill, she surveyed the way the small crowds dispersed on sight of the train. She had been surprised to see he wasn't in a litter, but she could understand well the desire to actually see the city for oneself rather than merely glimpsing it through curtains. "I'm sure you receive a veritable cartload of correspondence a day so may not have seen it but I sent a letter of thanks for the gathering you hosted last month." She held up a hand with a small smile, "But if you haven't worked your way through it all yet and found it, at least I can extend my gratitude in person. It was a lovely evening." Albeit one ruined by two idiotic, immature men who should have known better. "I trust you found time, despite your hosting duties, to enjoy it too?" She glanced sideways at him, an inscrutable expression on her face. Sosia had seemed so awestruck, it was almost like a poem. 

 

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Their destinations aligned, so Ovinia kindly acquiesced and her companions joined Tiberius's entourage. "Vesta and the Bona Dea." He observed with a hint of amusement. Two goddesses associated with chastity, but also with the home, hearth, fertility and women's business. "A busy day." And the combination suggested that Ovinia might have something on her mind. Or she was a regular patroness of both. But she was of marriageable age and he thought he'd heard rumour connecting her to the Vipsanius Roscius family.

Which possibly explained her previous irritation with Lucius, if she felt his antics relfected on her. Her mind seemed to go in the same direction as she mentioned the party at the Palace the previous month. "I did receive your letter." He confirmed, though he'd not seen a great need at the time to respond. "I was pleased you were able to attend." He said honestly. It had been good to meet her, even if they hadn't found much time to talk.

But she asked if he'd found time to enjoy the evening, and cast him a look that seemed to hold particular meaning. He met that glance mildly, suspecting he knew what - or rather whom - she was referring to. "I did, thank you, though I regret that I did not have time to enjoy everyone's company. Such is often the way for the host, alas." And if she sought more meaning in that than the simple appreciation of the company of friends and peers, she was reading overmuch into it. But it was true, he hadn't been able to spend as much time as he would have liked in the company of each; he could at least speak with Ovinia now.

As for Sosia, she was sweet and gentle and utterly delightful, and definitely not the kind of savvy, politically aware companion appropriate for an Imperial. She was also too old and would be looking for a husband in the next year or too - as presumably would Ovinia - and it would be interesting to see where that went.

"I hope you managed to enjoy some of the evening as well." He returned, thinking of that glimpsed moment when she'd seemed to storm away from Marcus and Lucius. As a politician it paid to know who was allied with whom, and who was not, but amongst friends, relationships were equally important.

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She smiled a little at his own mild glance; a better neutral look than the most astute politicians she'd met. He'd clearly go far in the senate, if that was his chosen path. His own words held the same level of meaning as her look, it seemed and she arched a brow, a wry smile settling on her lips. She had been wondering how she'd explain her very clear disapproval at both Marcus and Lucius without landing any of them in hot water with their peers; she was glad in that moment she had the foresight to concoct a simple enough story. 

"I did, thank you - although I am presuming by your question you saw my disagreement with Marcus Junius and Lucius Vipsanius? I thought I extricated myself from them with grace, but clearly not." She kept her voice light but her dark eyes were inquisitive and sparkling with amusement. "They were needling me, about my brother Lucius - who accompanied me and I thought they could say it to his face if I found him." She shrugged lightly. "Apparently neither man has grown out of their youthful amusement at teasing young women." That was a better story, she thought, than stating outright Marcus had invited a prostitute. Either Tiberius knew - in which case she'd seem prudish and foolish, or he didn't, and Marcus could lose a friend. She didn't particularly want either outcome although it occurred to her in that moment that lying to the face of an imperial was no better as an option. Her face fell a fraction and she glanced back to centre, at the crowds who parted for them. Ah well. Too late, you idiot. "But besides those few moments, it was an enjoyable evening. Certainly more fun than some of the parties I host for my father." Now her mother was too unwell for many of her duties as materfamilias and so they fell on Ovinia's young shoulders. 

"I suspect it might have been more useful than fun for your male guests though." She commented thoughtfully as they walked. It had clearly rained in the night and the pavements were slick with water. She held her chiton and her palla up at her ankles to keep them from dragging. "How many friendships and alliances in the senate were forged at gatherings like that, thirty years ago, I wonder?" She cast a sideways glance to him again, her expression curious, "If indeed you and your male guests wish to go into politics, of course." 

 

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"Entirely with grace." He assured her. "But to the concerned host, there was a certain tension visible." He said as gently, not wishing to embarrass her. And she gave a perfectly logical explanation. Marcus and Lucius had been teasing, which was certainly in character for Marcus and presumably for Lucius since they were friends. Certainly she hadn't seemed to appreciate the comments about her singing. Some people could take a jest, others had a pride that was somewhat prickly. Ovinia sounded like she might be the latter, but it would be ungentlemanly to suggest so. "Alas I suspect that may well be true, I fear we all mature at different rates." Certainly Marcus was young tended towards playfulness; Lucius was older than both of them but seemed similarly inclined. Some never grew to seriousness. Some might say that Tiberius had grown to it too soon.

He smiled faintly when Ovinia commented on the links that the young men had likely forged at the party. It was a very keen observation, and entirely accurate. That had been part of the point. But not all of it. "Many, I presume." He replied evenly. "You are very astute. Though I hope that the female guests might make some useful connections as well." He replied wryly, copying her phrasing. "Many of us will go into politics - for myself I have little choicer but also no desire to do otherwise - but the best senators are supported by intelligent wives who follow the ebb and flow of Roman politics." And how many arrangements were made within women's circles, that menfolk only found out about when a word was murmured in their ear.

"I'm sure you're more than capable of tracking the political tides, if you so desire." She certainly seemed intelligent enough, and unlike beautiful but sheltered Sosia, not oblivious. "But where do your interests lie?" He asked, intrigued. Ovinia seemed a woman of numerous complexities.

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She smiled, slightly bemused at his compliment. She had never considered herself particularly bright, but then again she had never really diverted her attentions to anything beyond the women's sphere; weaving and spinning, domestic tasks, running functions and helping manage the slaves. She wasn't overtly fond of reading although she could do it (out of wilfulness more than anything), and had - she supposed - never had a compliment like that, or at least not for a while. On her looks or the quality of the tunica's she stitched or her wit, yes, but not on her observational skills. 

"There were plenty made," She nodded, "I understand Acilia Duria and Messiena Gaiana's mother* have already had a lunch." She glanced sideways at him, realising that he wouldn't understand the gravity of what she meant, "Acilia's favourite brother is running for aedile in the Spring, Messiena was at your party and her father supported the last victor. I imagine Acilia asked Messiena to arrange a meeting with her mother where I'm sure they were discussing more than just the most fashionable colours for a chiton and plans for where to summer." It might, of course, seem trivial to him but she suspected it wouldn't. Many political campaigns started in the realms of women before they were inevitably excluded, not that many men realised it. 

His reference to marriage and then a neat segue into her own capabilities surprised her though. She cast him an assessing look. "I have four brothers and no sisters," She chuckled, "Politics is often the only conversation in my fathers triclinium, even if I didn't desire to listen." Which she did in the same way she enjoyed hearing stories of her brothers travels with the legions and gossip from her female friends. Surely he was far too young to be thinking of the requirements of a wife? Then again, she knew of a handful of patricians that had married young, some men as young as sixteen or seventeen, to secure alliances. The benefit of that, of course, was that both parties could divorce only a handful of years later with no loss if things didn't work out.

"Do you mean beyond visiting the temples of our glorious Vesta and mother goddess?" Her smile was wry, her voice droll. "My interests are undoubtedly the interests of most of the women you know, I like socialising, and looking after my nephew..." She realised she had unintentionally slipped into the polished list of hobbies that she rattled off to potential suitors, and corrected course; "But I also enjoy music. A lot. And travelling, I'd enjoy seeing more of the Empire if I got the chance to." If I married a husband who could"There's a storyteller I hired for my fathers most recent convivium. He was from Cappadocia, and some of his stories..." Her face took on a wistful look before she glanced to him. "And yourself? Beyond chaperoning young women to their devotionals, what is that interests you, Tiberius?" 

 

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*These two are just NPCs I've made up!

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Tiberius listened with interest, and a small but growing satisfied smirk, as Ovinia described the meeting between two ladies, mothers of party attendees, and mother and wife respectively of potential political movers and shakers. It was intriguing information, that being from the women's sphere he'd not been privy to, and it proved his point. "See? That's what I meant." He chuckled, quite delighted to discover that his companion was at least a shrewd political observer. "You sound like you have quite the head for politics." He said, meaning it as a compliment. Plenty of men didn't. She explained it away as having grown up in a house full of men, but he knew that it took a keen mind as well.

He'd welcomed the opportunity to talk to Ovinia himself, because for some months the only impressions he'd had of her came from others. Marcus and his desire to impress her - though he hadn't been clear as to in what way - and Sosia's description of her as a kind friend. Then there had been the party where, despite her no doubt stellar efforts, the other lads had got under her skin and left her in a bit of a mood. And perhaps the great Wits would have handled the situation better but they were none of them perfect. He'd certainly been quite distracted...

As it turned out, Ovinia was an intelligent and lively conversationalist. He did notice the way she paused slightly in the middle of listing her interests, starting with what were generally considered women's virtues, then shifting to some that sounded more personal. "So you do sing?" He asked, just a little cheekily. But no, he wouldn't ask her to sing for him. "I enjoy music too, it's such a universal language. Do you play at all?" He didn't but he could have music for the asking. But she said that she enjoyed it a lot; that was worth remembering. Alas but travel was more difficult for a young woman. "Travel is harder for those of us whom others seek to protect." He commiserated. He would probably get to travel in the near future, whilst serving as military tribune. "But distant lands are fascinating. My body slave is Sarmatian, and I think he is getting quite tired of my questions." He revealed in a half whisper, as though to keep the words from the man walking a short distance behind them.

And him? "I like to walk Rome," he gestured as though to say 'and here we are', "and I enjoy the Hortii." There was something about the gardens that was restful. "I like to read." He revealed. No doubt that sounded boring so he sought to clarify. "Sometimes I read accounts of distant lands by those who ventured into them, and I imagine what it's like. And I read different philosophers, which is like visiting another country of the mind. Different ways of thinking; it's fascinating." Assuming that you were into that sort of thing.

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She knew she should shrug off his compliment and reinforce that no she didn't have a head for politics and it wasn't even on her radar, as it was. But she didn't. She took it with a small smile of gratitude and an inclined head. Nobody had said something like that to her before, it troubled her how much pleasure it gave her. Politics was not her bag but she enjoyed that she understood it. She had never expected recognition for it. 

At his comment on singing though, she scoffed and glanced to him with an arched brow and a look of indignation just very briefly, before she cracked a smile. "I do sing, but in private." Unless goaded by Lucius Vipsanius Roscius. She gave him a delighted little look though that he enjoyed it too; most preferred the theatre. "I'd like to learn the cithara one day, perhaps." It was more refined than a cheap lyre after all, "But I'm not sure I'd be any good." She said with faux modesty. She had a natural aptitude for music and the few times she'd borrowed a musicians instruments, had picked it up fairly quickly. It paid to be humble though. 

Sarmatian? She arched a brow as they walked, the crowds parting for them. She'd never heard of Sarmatia...and felt a touch embarrassed. She swallowed it though, relieved the conversation has moved on. 

That he liked to walk Rome was not a surprise, given how they had just met but it was a little...irreverent. No wonder she liked Lucius with his silly, naive ideas about the plebs and Marcus with his youthful immaturity. Reading though? Not one of her own interests. It was almost sweet the way he immediately tried to expand on it and make it sound more interesting. She glanced sideways at him, a wry smile on her lips. "That sounds...fascinating. I'm afraid I'm not much of a reader." She shrugged her shoulders lightly, "But maybe it's the works I'm reading that's the issue. I suppose I should be grateful I can read at all." Many women weren't taught, after all and what had compelled her traditional father to allow her to, she'd never know. "But the works I've been given are a little dry...I dare say you'd feel the same if you were to read a woman's guide to weaving patterns," She repeated the title of one of her most recent gifts, "Or another soppy love poem." 

Shaking her head, her smile became a little more coy and her face illuminated with it. "Educate me? Who is your favourite philosopher of late?" 

 

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Tiberius echoed Ovinia's smile when she took his question in good humour. "I will never ask you to sing in public." He promised. That explained some of the irritation she had shown to Marcus and Lucius at the party. He'd never considered learning an instrument, the Imperials could have people play for them simply for asking. But the ability to make pleasing music from an inanimate object was a considerable skill in itself. The best musicians became minor celebrities. "The cithara is a beautiful instrument." He observed. "You never know until you try." He added playfully. Ovinia had the strength of personality that suggested she possessed considerable determination when she needed to. The instrument might not know what hit it.

Her admission that she didn't find reading that interesting made him feel a little chargrinned, but he'd also expected it. Most women and many men didn't read any more than they had to. Tiberius was something of a scroll-worm. Still, she went on to detail her available reading material and that perhaps provided some explanation as to why she wasn't that excited about reading.

"What, 'You're a lady who's somewhat new

Your breeding is straight and true

Your face is quite nice

Your dowry’s a good price

I rather suspect that you’ll do,’ doesn’t do it for you?" He grinned, teasingly making some rubbish up on the fly.

He was a little surprised by her question. Was she humouring him or was she genuinely interested? He could imagine that, if she could access their writings and find one who was relevant to her life, she might find some philosophers quite interesting too.

"I've been reading Seneca recently. He's a Stoic, they value logic, the natural world, and ethical living. They hold that we cannot control the world and what it presents to us, but we can control how we respond to what is presented, and that each of us has the capacity to make the most of our situations. To be 'sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy', particularly through the practice of the four virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperence." Which really spoke to Tiberius. "It's an interesting point of view." One which he'd been pondering for some time.

He glanced across to Ovinia, wondering whether he was boring her. "Seneca holds that whilst we cannot change the situations the world presents to us, we can sometimes change those of others. And that it behooves us, through the virtues, to change them for the better." That was what particularly interested him. Content people were productive and disinclined towards insurrection, and they were content when they had what they needed - and a little of what they wanted - in life. And that in turn fed back to the stability of the Empire, which he served.

Could he make Ovinia's life just that little bit better? "Do you think that your father would object, if I were to send you some scrolls to read?" He asked. Few Senatores objected to gifts from Imperials. Would she object?

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She let out a melodic laugh and grinned at his attempt at poetry but cast him a discerning look. "You know, I daresay that's better than half the stuff I've been given. More accurate too." Because really, there was utterly no romance or love in marriage for women like her. At least not at first, and the more people came to accept that, she was of the opinion the happier they'd be. "It's almost as if you've been sitting in on my meetings with suitors, you're almost quoting some of them word for word." And if he thought that was an exaggeration, more fool him. Roman men, in her experience, were seldom good with words.

As they meandered their slow path towards their shared destination she listened to his explanation. His passion was evident in his words and they intrigued her. She'd never had the mind or ability to read philosophy (who was going to give it to her?) but it sounded...easy. It made her query why those orators in the Forum were tipped as well as they were. "Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance." She quoted back at him, thinking them through. "Don't think me a heathen," She cast a look at him, "But could you not simply pick four words at random and call it philosophy? Ambition, chastity, patience and pragmatism. There," She flashed him a conspiratorial glance, "You could craft a whole philisophy around those. Or does that make me terribly uncultured not to appreciate Seneca's genius? Although I grant you," She looked back to centre, "I have no objection to helping others. There's still so much poverty in Rome," She sighed and wrinkled her nose, "It's difficult to comprehend, I think, when you're born into wealth."  

She looked sideways at him again though at his offer, curious. Was he doing so because he thought her terribly ill-educated, or out of friendship or...she didn't finish that thought. She simply smiled softly, her eyes warming. "I'm sure he wouldn't. Although you'll leave me to fend for myself against his barrage of questions about why an Imperial is sending me scrolls. Care to furnish me with an explanation?

 

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Tiberius felt a little chargrinned that his terrible poetry hit so close to the mark. But then wasn't that the point of art, to hold a mirror up to life? It was the way of it, of course. The plebians might have more freedom, but young people of their class married for the political connections. No doubt a number of potential future Senators were vying for a link to her father the Praetor. "What sort of poetry would you like?" He asked on impulse. Ovinia's willingness to talk and apparent enjoyment of their conversation was a rare opportunity for insight into her mind and interests, and he was finding them intriguing.

He laughed delightedly when she challenged the viewpoint he put forward, attempting to show how ridiculous it could be by countering with four 'virtues' of her own, then asking whether that made her a heathen. "No, not at all!" He declared, greatly amused. "It makes you the founder of a different school of philosophy." He grinned. "Now you need to expound how those virtues are to be realised in everyday life, and why they are paramount over others. Tying it back to some view of the 'natural order' of the world is usually a good angle." He said, half encouraging and half in jest. Who knew what she might write?

This chance conversation with Ovinia was proving very enjoyable indeed. Not only was she pleasant company, but despite her protestations over not being a great reader, she was both smart enough and confident enough to challenge his ideas and views. It was the kind of discussion that made him feel alive. And to think that she would likely be wasted on some Senator's son, left to manage his household, far from the world of politics.

"There is a great deal of poverty in Rome." He agreed, suddenly very serious. "And I do think that it is easy for us to overlook. Too easy, when we are best placed to do something about it." But it was easy for the privileged to turn a blind eye. "I am trying to improve things, as the opportunities arise." In many ways he was still working out what those opportunities were.

Ovinia said that her father wouldn't mind him sending her some scrolls to read, but she might need an explanation. "Can't friends send each other things of interest?" He asked. But they both knew the answer. At their level everything had implications. "I always prefer the honest answer, which is that we were talking about the subjects and I think you might find them interesting." And there was no motive beyond that, at least at this point. "You're clearly intelligent and canny. If I supply you the scrolls, I can look forward to arguing with you about them, so it's purely selfish." He added, mischief in his blue eyes.

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She took his question at face value and smiled almost self-consciously. "What sort of poetry would I like..." She narrowed her dark eyes as if in thought; "Something about travelling perhaps? As I said, I would like to see more of the Empire and," She shrugged, "If there's a writer or an orator who can illuminate it for me, I'd enjoy that I imagine. Moreso than love elegies." Which often bored her to tears or made her laugh so hard she thought her sides would split. Why men thought they were good to send, she had no idea.

If he was delighted at her attempt at philosophic reason, she was moreso. The smile that lit up her face was beaming and she laughed animatedly; "Don't put me on the spot!" She shook her head, her voice light and teasing; "Not all of us can come up with things on the fly as wonderful as your verses. I'll think on it and revert to you with my own philosophic school." Philosophy wasn't a natural interest of Ovinia's but then she supposed she'd never really been exposed to it. She'd always considered herself of middling intelligence with the same interests of any girl her age. It hadn't occurred to her that she could be something more. 

She said nothing at his comment on poverty. In truth, and perhaps rather cruelly, Ovinia didn't really see it as her duty to do anything about it. It tugged on her heartstrings as it surely would for any person to see an ill child or a begging woman, but what was she going to do about it? Nothing. Instead, she was pleased when he diverted to explaining  things to her father. She arched a brow and watched him with a sidelong gaze as they meandered their way to their destination. She couldn't help but clear her throat, somewhat embarrassed at his compliment. "How presumptive you are to think I'd wish to see you again." She offered before a smile broke and she grinned, "But that will work. He will nonetheless expect a letter to accompany them, to himself." Because Ovinia Camilla, unmarried daughter of the respected Praetor Gaius Ovinius Camillus couldn't have a male friend that made inroads without his knowledge or permission, naturally. 

"I take walks a lot," She offered as her grin softened to a gentler smile, "In the gardens and the sites when I'm not at a temple or weaving or managing the house. We women have few pastimes open to us but talking in the beauty of Rome, even in winter, is a pleasure I can respect. Perhaps you could join me once I have figured out the logistics of the Ovinius School of Philosophy, and read your Seneca, to discuss?" Perhaps it was presumptive of her to ask him to meet again, but he was good company and an a bright conversationalist and so very different to most men in Rome. Most men. She blinked one face in particular out of her thoughts.

 

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The majority of the patrician classes didn't see the plight of the plebs as their problem - most probably weren't even aware of it save for the odd beggar on the streets; they were so far removed from such that it was a common. Why, even many of the plebs were wealthy and well off, but there were also many that weren't, and in reading broadly if indiscriminately as a means to experience the Empire when he couldn't travel it, Tiberius had come to his own realisations about the nature of the plebs, both their struggles and their importance to the functioning of the Empire. The same went for slaves, but he wasn't ready to voice the half-formed ideas that he was still working on in that regard. The time would come. He didn't think less of those who failed to see the problem but he thought more of those who did.

Of course, there were other, less heard areas of society, and as Ovinia had so cleverly pointed out, women's circles was another that he had little insight into. Having had a mother who was politically influential, and a strong-willed twin, he perhaps made fewer assumptions, but still. He had little appreciation for how restricted their lives were. "Of course. I should introduce myself formally to your father anyway, a letter would be a good place to start." The Praetor could, if handled right, be yet another political ally.

And his daughter was excellent company. Tiberius smiled broadly when Ovinia suggested that they could enjoy another walk together. Bold perhaps, but hardly unwelcome. "I do a lot of walking too." He revealed, something that surprised those who expected an Imperial to go everywhere in a litter. "I would enjoy some company on my walks, and even more some interesting discussion." There were some who seemed too demure from truly challenging an Imperial, even if it were only in intellectual debate. Others of course were more than keen, even felt they had something to prove. In some ways he preferred the latter, but even better was the friendly middle road.

"The Gardens of Sullust are a particular favourite of mine; I'm actually planning to move into the attached villa in the new year." He revealed. It would give him a little more space and the opportunity to start to develop his own household, whilst the legalities of his inheritances were sorted out. "Do you have a favourite walk?"

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She arched a brow. She had fully expected him to be carted around in a litter like everybody else of his rank. In truth, Ovinia had little love for walking the streets of the city but she enjoyed the gardens and the temples and the scenery down by the Tiber. The nice part down by the Tiber, that was. "Then it is settled." She said with a hum of satisfaction and a nod.

The nod continued as he spoke and then surprise registered on her face, her dark eyes shining with intrigue. She didn't answer his question immediately and instead turned his statement back on him. "You're moving from the Palace?" Why anybody would give up such luxury was beyond her and it was writ large on the surprise on her face. "Alone?" She added curiously. "Do you simply seek more freedom? Or...perhaps a place away from prying eyes?" That was the only reason she could see. The former she could understand, of course, she was heavily cloistered in her family's domus. The latter seemed to be the concern of most men his age. And the Imperials had a certain...reputation with the ladies to uphold, of course. There was a twinkle of amusement in her eyes before she let the brief innuendo and flirtation drop and returned to safer pastures. 

"The Gardens of Sullust of course," She affirmed with a nod of her head, "But the Portico Livae is a particular favourite. Terrible wall reliefs, aside." She chuckled, "But the most beautiful? I assume you've been to the Gardens of Lucullus...and then there's a walk down by the river to the Maouselum of the Augustus. Now that is a walk I could do every day of my life and not get bored." 

 

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It was settled. He would write to her father, and they would meet up on a future walk, perhaps several, to talk and solve the philosophical problems of the Empire.

But Ovinia was far more interested in his planned move than in discussing potential walks. She sounded curious, even a touch incredulous. He supposed it might seem odd for someone on the outside. But wasn't the grass always greener elsewhere? Her last comment about prying eyes was said with a touch of amusement. He snorted and rolled his eyes at her, amused himself. Was that the obvious assumption? But it wasn't his main motivation. "Not alone; Marcus Junius Silanus will be moving in too." Yeah OK, that didn't help with the prying eyes assumption. Marcus was a known party lover.

"I feel it's time I established my own household." He said honestly. "I'm the last Julio-Claudean male." Which made him pater familias but the family consisted of himself and his twin sister. "Whilst Quintus Augustus ruled, my uncles all had their own Domii." And still did, of course. "I grew up in the palace, but Titus is Caesar and will have his own household too. So I think it's time to move out, to give both of us some space. The Villa Sullusti is a stepping stone, whilst my own inheritance is sorted out." It was still an imperial residence, after all. "You think I'm mad to leave the Palace, don't you?" He asked, tone equal parts gentle challenge and amusement.

There were a lot of interesting places to walk in Rome, if one was that way inclined. "The sculptures Lucullus collected are particularly fine and numerous, and it's interesting because it's laid out to eastern principles. I don't know of any other hortus quite like it." All of which Ovinia likely knew. Lucullus had been influenced by the Persian gardens on his campaigns to the east. "I visit the Mausoleum on the family feasts and days for the dead. Otherwise it's a bit despressing." He admitted quietly. Most of his family were buried there. "But the river is beautiful."

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Ovinia considered his reasoning with a small smile but her eyes were sad. She understood the temptation to branch out on one's own, but it would never be a reality for her. She'd move from her fathers house to her husbands, and then live in it with her children until she was dust in a pot on the wall. Still, she strove not to let it show on her face and shook her head, bemused at his question. "I don't think you're mad at all," She confirmed with a little chuckle, "It's hardly as if the villa is a shack in the woods and I understand the need for space. My domus houses myself, my father, my mother, my eldest brother, his wife, his child and my other two brothers...and a menagerie of slaves." She chuckled, "I understand, Tiberius." She also knew her own brothers were itching to branch out into their own lives and households. She wondered what it would be like to have such freedom. 

But as they moved on in conversation, she felt embarrassment flush her cheeks and she winced, giving him an apologetic glance. To her the Mausoleum was a tourist attraction - on of the must-see's in Rome...for Tiberius it was a reminder of horrors past. She sighed. "I'm sorry, that was crass of me." and she let her apology sink in, be as sincere as she felt, before continuing  her conversation, "Will I see you down there in the summer months then? At the river?" She chuckled, "Sunning yourself on the banks, perhaps whilst us ladies shyly shuffle past draped in our insufferably hot chitons and pallas?" She was teasing and her smile was relaxed. "Or perhaps you're planing a trip to the coast?" 

 

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When Ovinia chuckled, Tiberius smiled ruefully. He supposed, with all those family members, that she did understand. And he at least had the palace to get lost in, when he needed space. "That does sound rather busy." He commiserated. And she didn't have the option to just move out, like he did. She would likely move from her father's domus to her husband's, which might well contain his father, mother, unwed sisters, his brothers and their families. Or she might wed a man who was pater familias and whose brothers had moved out. Either way, she wouldn't get much choice in the matter.

"It's alright." He said mildly. Any upset was not at her. "It is an impressive building." But his family were there. Sometimes he went there to think, or to seek some guidance from the dead. After all, they included some of the greatest politicians in the empire, and they were people who had loved him. But for everyone else it was yet another interesting piece of architecture, with an attractive walk along the river. And Ovinia skillfully moved the conversation along, so that he couldn't help but smile at the image she painted. "If you ladies promise to parade past for me, I might well sun myself on the banks so that I can watch." He grinned, cheekily. Not that he was the type to ogle women, but he appreciated  an attractive young lady as much as the next lad.

"The coast is lovely in the winter." It was a nice escape from the cooler temperatures. "I guess in some ways I'm waiting to find out what will happen with my military service, and where I'll be posted." He felt like he was marking time a bit. "What about yourself? Any plans over winter?"

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Ovinia grinned, ducking  her head to hide her blush as she shook her head. "Aren't you the charmer? You've been spending too much time with Marcus Junius, clearly." She rolled her eyes conspiratorially as she raised her head to look at him. She liked Marcus, but the flirting was exhausting after a while - even if he'd developed a thick skin against such endeavours over many years of being paraded on the marriage market. 

She nodded at his words and her smile softened to something smaller; "Military service will obviously be an exciting step, but you'll be missed in Rome." She knew the young man was popular in his own right and the more time she spent conversing with him, the more she could see why. He was clever and charming in that awkward way young men his age often were. She had no real measure of Caesar himself, but if he was anything much like his adoptive-brother, things would soon begin to become exciting for their generation, she was sure of it. 

She shook her head at his question, considering it. "Just the usual." by which she meant the parties and walks with potential suitors and spending time with her family. "But I might go to the villa for a little while with my mother." The sea air helped her illness, but she didn't say such. There was no need to air the family business. "And you never know," She chuckled, "If there's no suitable match to be found for me in the city, perhaps I can convince my father to send me off for a little break somewhere overseas - Greece perhaps? Or my brothers legion was based in Hispania, I'm sure he'd like to show me the sites." Not that her father would countenance it, she was sure. "Is there anything you'd recommend young ladies like me do over the cold, dark winter days, Tiberius?" 

 

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Was he? Was that charming? He'd heard that Marcus was considered charming, or at least got on well with ladies. Marcus was his friend whom he was very fond of, but he knew that they had different priorities  in life. Had some of that rubbed off on Tiberius? "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" He asked, only half in jest. The eye roll suggested that it wasn't all good. Flirting was an area in which Tiberius was far less confident than he was in, say, politics. It hadn't exactly been part of the curriculum. But then he'd never really looked for more than to make the other person smile. At least until Sosia came along. Then suddenly he became aware of women in a way that went beyond his one boyhood crush. Ovinia was very different to Sosia, but her obvious intellect was surprisingly appealing. Perhaps Aulus was on to something. Still, he'd always assumed that Quintus would simply make appropriate arrangements when the time was right; except that Quintus was now retired to his villa and estates, and Tiberius was suddenly on his own footing.

Military service would be an exciting next step, he was looking forward to it, and the chance to finally see a bit of the Empire. But Ovinia's words caught him off guard. "Will I?" He asked, giving an awkward, slightly embarassed smile. He recalled for a moment Lucius's comment that there'd been graffiti about him on the walls, and not all of it bad. Of course, he was born and trained to make a positive difference to the people of Rome and of the Empire, but it felt both pleasing and a little odd to realise that there would be a response to his efforts. He expected to pay attention to the people of Rome; he didn't really expect them to pay attention to him. "I'll miss people here." He admitted. "Sometimes it feels like we're only just all getting to know each other and come into our own; our generation." Of course the women his age were either married or soon would be, and to older men, whilst he was expected to wed in a few years time to a younger woman. But that didn't mean that they couldn't be friends.

If there's no suitable match for me... He supposed that was her life now, at her age. His twin was the same, and he'd been putting off having a conversation to that effect with Claudia. Was there such a shortage of good men? "I'm sure you could phrase a request to go to Hispania in a way your father would approve." He replied, thinking that Ovinia could probably be surprisingly persuasive. But then he only knew her father by reputation. But what could he recommend to young ladies over winter? He really had no ready idea, but gave it thought since she asked. "If your father feels Achaea is too far, there's always Sicillia, which is far warmer." He suggested. It was also part of Italia. "Do you enjoy the theatre?" He asked. "The better ones are like good literature, brought to life."

But he was hardly the person to recommend a lady's entertainments. "What would you like to do, if you could anything?" He asked, curious. Was the answer simply to travel a little? Or was there more?

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"It's certainly...something." Ovinia deflected with an amused lilt in her voice. "Marcus is sweet but," she shook her head with a chuckle, "...did I tell you one of the first times I spoke to him, he was loitering outside in the Forum Boarium on Matralia1, looking for a young woman to keep him company I suspect." She arched a brow, "And then he found me and I was not quite such an easy target. You're far more skilful Tiberius; at least you made it look like an accident, running into me like this." She was teasing him, her voice ever so slightly edging on flirtation, but only mildly. 

Their conversation drew to more serious matters, and even Tiberius' slightly bemused 'will I?' didn't raise the spirits a huge amount. She nodded in commiseration and with a sigh, said; "I suspect that's because our brothers and sisters and parents lost so much time during the war, they're still determined to take centre stage." In a way that they might not have, should the natural order of things had been preserved rather than scarred and blackened by the terror of fifteen years ago. "But I know what you mean." She nodded in understanding, "Your party was one of the first opportunities I had to meet some people I really should have done years ago. I trust you'll be hosting another soon?" She glanced across at him, a touch hopefully before adding with narrowed eyes and a small smile; "If you do, I shall promise not to storm away at your next event." 

She nodded at his suggestion of Sicillia, although even that felt simultaneously too close to home and not far enough from it. She envied her brothers; even Gaius or Lucius might be able to wrangle a trip to Greece for a few weeks - networking or meeting friends and colleagues; Ovinia was not quite so lucky. His question made her frown though and she glanced at him; "I haven't attended much, I had heard they're not the place for young, well brought up women to be." Given the actors and actresses were virtually akin to prostitutes. She could imagine her fathers flushed cheeks and indignant look now and shook the idea of asking to visit a performance out of her head.

Instead, she concentrated on Tiberius' question. "Music." She admitted almost immediately, recalling their earlier conversation, "I'd sing, or learn the cithara. Properly learn I mean, become an expert at it, revered even." She could do a few tunes on a lyre borrowed from a friend on instinct, but to have the skill to conjure sounds and melodies from the air was...something she utterly craved. "And if I couldn't do that then..." She narrowed her eyes, thinking as they walked on, "I should like to visit the races properly. My family prefer the games, so I've only seen a few races." And games, she wasn't much a fan of bloodsport. "What about you?" She asked with a grin, "If you could do anything in the world right now, what would you do?" Something more exciting than visiting a race and learning an instrument, no doubt.

 

TAG: @Sarah

thread here: Prayers for What?

 

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It's certainly...something.

Not a good thing then. And then Ovinia went on to tell him how she'd met Marcus loitering outside the Forum Boarium during Matralia, that so very feminine day of religious festivities where the women honoured the goddess Mater Matuta and celebrated their sisters' children as a reminder of the importance and interlinkage of family. She seemed to suspect that young Marcus had other kinds of 'honouring' in mind. For a moment the young Imperial pressed his lips together in a faintly disapproving expression, then realised he was doing it and let his face relax. Marcus was a friend from his childhood and one he valued, but he was gaining the impression that, now that he was older, his friend was rather focused on other types of play. It was a long way from where Tiberius thought he should be focused: on restoring his family's success and wealth, but he hoped to help him with that.

"Perhaps Marcus should thank you." He suggested mildly. "For saving him from incurring the wrath of Mater Matuta."If he had dishonoured her holy day by seducing one of the women at the temple, the consequences of angering such a goddess were surely not inconsequential. But of course, Tiberius had also encountered Ovinia outside a temple. He hadn't been loitering, but it was an obvious connection to draw. At least you made it look like an accident, she said. "Well, if you're going to spend all your time visiting temples..." he winked at her. Likely it was a convenient excuse to get out of the house.

Their conversation turned more serious, to the lost years of the purges and false Caesars, and the new generations making themselves felt. "I think we all lost something during those years." He agreed quietly. "Some more than others."He'd lost family members. And the time and familial love lost from those years made him determined to do everything he could to ensure Rome remained as stable as possible. He would not see such again if he could avoid it. But those wounds were healing, and Ovinia complimented him on his recent event. That brought a small smile to the young Imperial's face. "I will, if I can hold you to that promise."He said. "Though perhaps some more formal events as well, such as a youth forum." Something where there was less opportunity for casual social offense. "And open to some older participants too; perhaps those who are not yet occupying a seat in the Senate." Then her younger brothers, and those of other Senatorial women, could attend. He could meet more up and comings, as could women like Ovinia and Sosia, not that he was trying to run a match-making service. "I think you've put your finger on that social gap; it's time we made more of our own connections."

He wasn't exactly the best to ask about entertainments though, and had neglected to consider what might be proper for a young woman as opposed to a young man, when suggesting the theatre. Oops. It was just something he thought she might find entertaining and a distraction from the everyday. But there were other, more appropriate interested. Ovinia had mentioned her interest in music previously, and she revealed that she'd like to learn to play the cithara well. It was a lovely instrument. "I'd love to hear you play it." He replied. Unfortunately it wasn't something he could really facilitate. But games and races, now they were another matter.

Then she blindsided him by asking, if he could do anything in the world right now, what would he do? Tiberius actually paused for a moment in his stride, as he gave the question thought. "You know, I'm not really sure." He admitted. "I guess that means that I'm mostly doing what I want to do."He added with a sheepish smile. Or that the things I want to do are impossible, such as give my mother a hug, and sit at Quintus's feet to listen to his wisdom again. The longing for the comforts of childhood, even ones he hadn't known such as his mother's love beyond infancy. But he was, of necessity, a man in the Empire now. So what else? "I'd like to see the Empire." He settled on at last. "After the purges, we basically lived in the palace. Protected, I guess. I'd like to travel. But I assume that, as a Military Tribune, I will travel with the legions."Which he was actually looking forward to.

"I'm sure there will be some excuse for races over the next few months. Do you think an invitation to sit in the Imperial area might be acceptable to your father? With your brothers and some of our friends, of course." He glanced across at her.

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Ovinia could empathise with much of what he was saying, although she hadn't been sequestered on account of the purges, more for her sex. She smiled politely though and arched a brow; "You should perhaps meet my brother Lucius. He was at your party," She offered and smoothed down her chiton as they drew closer to the Temple of Vesta, her final stop of the day. "He served in Hispania for close to a decade, although is now finishing his term as a Tribune here back in Rome. He's also under thirty," She chuckled, "So perhaps is somebody you should make a connection with, of our own generation." She added, recalling his previous words. 

But the conversation meandered on to the races and she glanced across at him, delight but confusion on her face. She hadn't intended on making...such an impression, and hadn't done anything to warrant it but she was pleased. Pleased not only because she knew her father would be delighted at connections with an Imperial prince, but out of genuine pleasure at his company. He was clever, quick-witted and...bashful, almost, which was a breath of fresh air for her from many of the young men in Rome. "I can guarantee you he would find it acceptable." She said with an amused voice, "Although you might wish to make it clear in your invitation you're inviting me as a friend and not as a prospective match lest he get the wrong idea." She was likely too old for Tiberius but she doubted that would stop her family from hoping and scheming.

The crowds were thicker now as they drew to the steps outside the Temple. She drew to a stop reluctantly and glanced up. The winter winds were cooling her skin and she smiled at Tiberius. "Well, I have to say that was one of the best escorts I've had in my time in the city, I thank you." she inclined her head mischievously, "But I won't keep you. I shall, however, look forward to your scrolls and my invitation Tiberius." She inclined her head more properly now out of respect and tugged the palla up over her hair before she entered the Temple complex. 

 

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