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Aulus Lartius Florianus

Runcible Spoon

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Aulus Lartius Florianus
    26| 9th of October 51CE | Plebeian| Confidential Secretary| Unknown| Original |Enzo Clienti



Hear all. Trust few. Forget nothing.

That had always been the motto of his father. Florianus, being clever, has little difficulty in following such sound advice.  In new company he can be quite reserved, watching, listening, and trying to understand the complexities of social dynamics. He is not naturally at ease with strangers, but can put on a civil front and through reasoning, and above all listening, he can make a creditable show of decorum.

In his private life he maintains a small circle of friends whom he trusts, and a larger circle of acquaintances about whom he has inevitable reservations. He tries, nevertheless, to maintain cordial relations, for one can never be sure when knowing just the right person can result in favor and advantage. 
One remarkable aspect of his character is his prodigious memory, for he is both naturally gifted in that way, and has practiced various methods to improve his recall of people, places, words, and events. Even so, he takes copious notes and maintains a voluminous journal in many volumes in which he commits his thoughts, details of the day, and speculations upon the future.

In his religious practice he is observant of the lares and penates as well as the various genii, offering libations and ritual cakes in proper fashion. Auguries and other divinations he likewise values. Foreknowledge is always useful. Of the greater gods he is skeptical and though he will make what offerings he must, privately he doubts they exist at all. A two-year sojourn in Greece and too much time in wine shops arguing with drunken acolytes of the great Plato did nothing to help this view.  

There is a strong manipulative streak in Florianus, which he considers to be one of his cardinal virtues for it has served him well in securing decent employment and in carrying out business that might be considered distasteful to some. Indeed, Florianus prefers to be known as a useful man, rather than an honorable one. 


There is little enough that stands out about Florianus. His hair is of a dark brown color and his eyes are similar. In the summer his complexion trends toward olive, but in the winter grows paler.  

Standing a little more than average height at 5’9” and of long-limbed and lithe frame, Florianus nevertheless seems to take up a far smaller space than one might expect. Somehow, he managed to fold in upon himself, and fade into the background.  It is a useful skill for a man who makes his living as an assistant and secretary, for he can scribble his notes without attracting too much attention.

In mode of dress he is unremarkable, wearing the best-made yet unobtrusive clothing he can afford. He is not, as a rule, a man much given to flashy apparel.  What jewelry he wears is limited to a signet ring with a triskelion of flowers. That ring he values for it was a comical gift from his sister  Menia, meant to poke fun at his cognomen.  


Father: Aulus Lartius Horatius - An devious merchant 
Mother:  Julia Numeria - A woman who knows her way around an accounts ledger

  • Aulus Lartius Valens - His younger brother, a hopeless romantic
  • Menia Lartia - His younger sister, a cheerful menace

Spouse: None
Children: None
Extended family:

Full chorus of meddling aunts, embarrassing uncles, multitudinous cousins, and various more obscure relations of dubious provenance

  • Gnaeus Camillius Laco - A somewhat affable old senator to whom Florianus was secretary while Camillus was in Greece on official business 
  • Ariogaisos - A Gaul he met in Athens and from whom he learned seventeen words in an old Gaulish language, all of them vulgar
  • Tiberius Velianas Milo - His friend, a surgeon of first rate skills living a third rate life
  • Cybele - A Syrian freedwoman and proprietor of a comfortable wine shop


The first thing Florianus can recall is sitting on the floor of the house on Lesser Myrtle Street cheerfully pretending to write upon an old wax tablet. He must have been no more than three, and marks he made would have disgraced an anxious chicken.  Still, he was proud of himself and showed his mother his work with a broad smile.  She had always been slightly indulgent of him, especially when he showed interest in practical skills and over the course of perhaps a year taught him to write in something very near a legible hand. 

A knowledge of accounting and of the mathematics of weaving followed, for Julia Numeria kept the books of the family business and occasionally wove complex textiles as a form of relaxation. She never needed to weave for practical reasons, for the Lartii were well enough off to afford to have others make their clothes. 

So, from his mother he learned writing and mathematics. 

As for his father, well, his lessons were less academic. That did not mean they were not difficult. A merchant and negotiator, Horatius often had his elder son tag along to the less demanding business ventures, both to teach him the ways of commercial life and to make use of the boy’s prodigious memory for ability to recall the tone of conversations.  He filled wax tablets with facts and figures, listened to the follies and foibles of rich clients and to the wheedling excuses of clients who put on a pretense of being in penury. So it was that he learned to lie, to dissemble, and to speak in carefully crafted half-truths. 

The lessons of his youth he learned well, and from the age of twelve until he was nearing twenty, he served primarily as his father’s personal secretary and as a messenger to various business contacts in Rome. As such, he learned the layout of the city well, and so has committed that too to the storehouse of his memory.  Back allies and shortcuts became his preferred mode of travel, for he could move faster through such places. Besides, there was a green grocer on one of his preferred routes that stocked excellent artichokes. He is dearly fond of an artichoke. 

One of those business contacts was a relatively obscure Senator, one Gnaeus Camillus Laco. Laco had served in various minor magistracies and had a private reputation as decent, if somewhat eccentric man. He collected books in a variety of languages, and several times made a stab at writing what he maintained would be the definitive treatise on politics as a practical rather than abstract, philosophy.  An infinity of drafts and a papyrus bill that would shock Alexandria were all he could show for it ever after twenty years of work. The senator had been a long-time patron of the Lartii, and Florianus’ father had often handled commercial transactions as well other business, including the importation of papyrus from Egyptian merchants with unpronounceable names.  It was a cordial relationship, and the senator took a liking to Florianus, for he found the young man to be most useful, competent, and above all discreet. 

For one thing, Florianus was able to sort through the senator's chaotic mess of drafts and his voluminous correspondence and begin to make some sense of things. By slow degrees, Florianus was drawn into Laco's business, where he worked as something between a secretary and a librarian. It was a decent position, and attachment to a senator, however minor, certainly did much to burnish the name of the Lartii.

In the year 74 CE, Laco was sent to the province of Achaea in Greece by the senate, there to handle official business involving the inevitable rumors of corruption that attend provincial governors. It was natural enough that he take his secretary along with him, and so it was that Florianus spent two miserable years in Greece.  He could not complain about the accommodations in a pleasant house in Athens, nor the opportunity to improve his understanding of the Greek language. But Athens is not Rome, and the streets were alien to him, the people both too alien and too familiar to provide for his comfort. In a small wine shop off the agora, he once remarked to a waiter so ancient he might have known Socrates' grandfather, that Syria or even Parthia would have been more comfortable. There, at least, he would know he was far outside the realm of the comfortable and the familiar.

To keep the misery at bay, Florianus buried himself in his work. Most of it was perfectly mundane; the usual senatorial correspondences, letters from this or that client hoping for a sesterces or twenty, invitations to ghastly dinner parties. But within this stream of banalities were the diplomatic communiques, and bits and pieces of the evidence of the governor's supposed corruption. Well, all governors are corrupt, but some have no sense of proportion.  So Florianus worked long into the nights, reading over letters, ledgers, and compiling notes. It was at once tedious and fascinating, but above all it required great focus.

That is why he never heard the thief enter the office one summer night in the year 76.  

The man tried to be silent, but in the dim light of the oil lamps the office was a mazework of tables and cabinets. It was only a matter of time before the thief made a mistake, before he made a noise. A table was knocked over, scrolls and writing materials scattered, and then came the cursing. Latin cursing, as Florianus would later recall.  Cautiously, he made his way toward the sound, thinking perhaps one of the slaves had come in late to check in on him and stumbled.  The burly arm that wrapped around his throat put an end to that speculation. Confused, frightened, and panicking, Florianus tried to free himself from the assailant, tried to cry out for help. It was no use. So he struck out with his elbows and with is feet. At last he managed to cause the thief to stumble again and they both fell to the floor. After that, his recollections are confused, disordered. He can recall the struggle continuing, can recall lashing out with whatever was to hand. How he managed to stab the thief with a bronze stylus in the neck he cannot quite say. Then again, killing a man can rattle even the most reliable of memories.

Laco used what sway he could muster to keep the matter of the thief and the killing quiet, but the old senator could not help but think this was a sign that, perhaps, it would be best to leave Greece with all convenient speed.  It was not an easy passage home, for though the senator kept saying that he should feel no guilt for the killing, Florianus could not get it out of his head, could not stop rolling the stylus between his fingers. Even now he keeps it close, though whether for protection or as a grim reminder he cannot say.

Back in Rome, Laco decided that he should prehaps retire from public life, work on his long-suffering treatise, and grow grapes down in Baiae. Florianus was not follow. No, Florianus would stay in Rome, try to leave the matter of the thief and the stylus well enough alone and look for another patron who might find his skills useful.  As a parting gift, Laco arranged a letter of introduction that Florianus might present to a senatorial colleague, one Tertius Quinctilius Varus. 

What the future portends, Florianus cannot say. Still, Florianus is back in Rome, and that is a start.



Runcible Spoon | US Pacific | Discord: Runcible Spoon#6257



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