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The Temple of Juno Lucina, April 77

Aulus had felt that he should make offerings to the relevant gods for the safekeeping of his wife and infant son, and one of the most important was Juno Lucina, the person of Juno who was responsible for childbirth and motherhood.

And, most relevant, in whose very temple Aulus' wife had given birth to their second son. Apparently the priestesses hadn't been amused by this, nor had they been very helpful when push came to shove. Or rather, when push led to the birth of a baby.

He felt rather out of place in this sanctum of a goddess whose remit was that most womanly of affairs, but he needed to leave his own offerings and make his own prayers... and possibly to chivvy the old, holy bats into being a little more helpful the next time someone went into labour on their doorstep. Being even an ex-consul had to be good for something...

And once his errand here was done, he was determined to find some small gift for Horatia that she would appreciate - even a woman of simple tastes liked to be given surprise gifts on occasion, after all.

"I can't believe the priestesses of the goddess of childbirth aren't better prepared to deal with the realities of actual childbirth," he said to Felix, pausing in the walk up the hill to the temple at its summit. "Especially after they've had to walk up here."

It was no wonder Horatia had gone into labour, as late on in her pregnancy as she had been, with even the moderate exertion of this walk.

 

@Chevi

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There was a new baby in the household - the dominus had a second son, praise the gods, born under unusual circumstances - and with it, a whole lot of new errands to run. Felix himself did not have much to do with the baby, but the presence of the little one made him more cheerful in general. And it put the dominus in a good mood too. Right now, they were headed to the temple of Juno Lucina, both the birthplace of the child, and the sanctuary of the goddess of childbirth, surrounded by lush foliage. Felix was carrying the elaborately carved box wrapped in expensive cloth that contained the dominus' offerings to the goddess. And probably the priestess.

"Yes I... that does seem like an oversight" he noted. The path, and the unpreparedness of the priestesses in general. The whole household knew the story of how one of Longinus' slave girls helped the domina deliver. "Maybe the temple could use... a few more benches along this path."And a few more midwives. More than zero. "But the goddess did grant a good birth, praise her." It was always prudent to give credit when credit was due in one's own temple.

@Sharpie

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"A few more benches would be easy enough. A midwife would be a sensible precaution, though I doubt the priestesses will appreciate the insinuation that this is a good place to have a child."

Right now, though, it was a terrible place from a medical point of view, and surely the goddess would be relieved by having a competent pair or two of human hands so that she didn't have to keep putting herself out to ensure the safe delivery of every child.

"Thank Juno that Longinus' girl was here," he added. He didn't dare to think what might have happened to his wife if she had been on her own; the priestesses had been next to useless.

 

@Chevi

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"A few more benches would be easy enough. A midwife would be a sensible precaution, though I doubt the priestesses will appreciate the insinuation that this is a good place to have a child."

"I believe the domina has expressed the same idea" Felix nodded. Horatia was now invested in fixing things, and she had the power to do it, too. Having a midwife at the temple at least would help in cases like hers - but it would also attract more women in need of help. Which was not necessarily a bad thing...

"Thank Juno that Longinus' girl was here," 

"Indeed. I hear she is also with child." One pregnant woman helping another. Domina was lucky she had someone like that. He looked up at the temple looming ahead of them. Someone must have noted their arrival, because two white-clad priestesses were waiting at the top of the stairs.

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"Your mistress has always been a woman of eminently practical sense," Aulus observed dryly, and couldn't help arching an eyebrow as he saw the reception committee waiting for them. He was wearing the plain white toga virilis today, as befit a Senator without a magistracy.

"It seems the ex-Consul is more worthy of a reception than the ex-Consul's extremely pregnant lady wife," he added to his ever-faithful Felix, before addressing the waiting priestesses. "Ladies. I understand that this may be an unusual place for a man to be, but I have come to give my thanks to Juno Lucina for safely overseeing the birth of my son."

Which, please note, you did not, leaving it to a slave to deliver him went unspoken, though the silent thought could be plainly inferred, if they chose to recognise it.

The priestesses fluttered, as priestesses were wont to do (he had half a mind to inquire of his sister whether she had ever fluttered, as a Vestal) but allowed him into the quiet darkness of the temple to present his gifts to the goddess.

 

@Chevi

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"It seems the ex-Consul is more worthy of a reception than the ex-Consul's extremely pregnant lady wife,"

"Well, there is less of a chance you'll make them handle a newborn" Felix smirked quietly and then did his best to look somber, standing behind his dominus as he faced the fluttering priestesses. Aulus announced the reason for his visit and they were guided inside the temple. Felix stood to the side, holding out the box and allowing Aulus to make his offerings and prayers. He stole a few glances at the priestesses too, who congregated on the other side, watching the box with obvious curiosity and some hesitation. They had to know they had not been too kind to Horatia...

@Sharpie

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Aulus let out a laugh. "I should hope so - though if anyone leaves a foundling on my doorstep, this might be a good place to bring him." Give the old biddies something to keep themselves out of trouble.

He didn't know what the old biddies expected the box held but they were bound to be somewhat disappointed. He had come to thank the goddess for granting them a child and so naturally he had brought a model of a woman's uterus - completely anatomically correct, he had been assured, very solemnly, by its manufacturer. Quite what use the goddess found for all the various models of bits of the human body, Aulus couldn't say, but it was tradition and both he and Horatia were very firm believers in tradition even if they had ended up being the most unconventional traditional couple in Rome.

Adding somewhere nearby where a midwife could live and could attend to any devotees caught as unaware as Horatia had been... that would be another acceptably devotional gift. Whether or not it would be acceptable to the priestesses would be another question.

He pulled the sinus fold of his toga over his head and took the box from Felix, walking forward to the altar to lay it before the marble representation of Juno Lucina (whose expression seemed somewhat pained. Obviously not made by the most talented craftsman...)

 

@Chevi

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Felix stood to the side, allowing his dominus to make the offering and the necessary prayers. The priestesses hovered nearby, supervising the offering, but also throwing sideways glances at Felix, no doubt wondering if he was carrying more gifts in the box. He enjoyed the small satisfaction of making them wait for the answer.

Once Aulus' prayers were done, with the clay uterus placed on the altar, Felix waited for him to face the priestesses. The high priestess probably had the same idea, because she stepped forward, holding her head high (which she needed to, looking up at Aulus). 

"The goddess accepts your gracious offering for her blessing on your child."

@Sharpie

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It might well be Aulus' imagination, but he could swear the chief priestess looked as if she'd bitten down unexpectedly on a lemon. She wasn't short, as Roman women went, but Aulus was tall for a Roman man; her head was approximately level with his chest, which lessened the effectiveness of her approach. And probably didn't help with the overall sourness of her presumed disposition - Aulus conceded that perhaps he was being less than generous because it was his wife and child that had been endangered. And not everyone was unaffected by blood and pain, something he was all too familiar with from his own military background.

"Thank you. I hope it would not be inappropriate of me to take a walk in the sacred grove?" This was a temple for women; while there were a few things Aulus had in mind, none of them were blasphemous in any way and he could only hope that his very male presence (and Felix's) would likewise not be blasphemous.

"Oh, no, not at all - of course you may," she managed, though the sour lemon expression seemed not to have dissipated very much.

"Thank you. Felix."

 

@Chevi

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Felix worked hard to bite back a smirk as he watched the interaction between the priestess and Aulus who towered over her. No doubt she had been expecting some kind of an apology, or even gifts in compensation of what had happened. It was customary to present gifts to the priestesses for various reasons... but as far as this family was concerned, abandoning Horatia in her hour of need was not one of them.

Felix followed Aulus out of the temple into the grove, feeling the glare of the priestess in their backs.

"I think they expected presents" he noted quietly once they were among the trees.

@Sharpie

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"I'm sure they did," Aulus replied dryly. "They can wait, however. Now. Horatia has suggested, and I concur, that perhaps there should be a dedicated midwife in residence here, because Juno knows her priestesses aren't capable of acting in that capacity." They probably had the position as a favour from some past Consul or Emperor, treating it as a hobby or sinecure. "Obviously, such a woman needs somewhere to live, and there should be a birthing room too, although presumably any woman coming to the temple wants to pray to the goddess. I wonder how much of a sacrilege it would be to have such a room within the very walls of the temple?"

And how much of a desecration those old biddies considered it for Horatia to have given birth within the very sanctuary itself, almost.

He had come up here to scout out the land; rebuilding a temple was a worthy use of funds, and to rebuild a temple to Horatia's wishes would be a fitting tribute. Not that the fluttering bats consecrated to Juno Lucina would see it that way, probably.

"I wonder how many women have found themselves in a similar position, coming to pray and finding themselves needing the more direct intervention of a good pair of hands," he added.

 

@Chevi

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The sacred grove was quiet and peaceful; Felix walked half a step behind Aulus, keeping up appearances, but not keeping strict formalities.

"I'm sure they did. They can wait, however. Now. Horatia has suggested, and I concur, that perhaps there should be a dedicated midwife in residence here, because Juno knows her priestesses aren't capable of acting in that capacity." 

"They... do not count that among her responsibilities, no." Felix noted tactfully with a chuckle. Why, only the gods knew. Or maybe not even them.

"Obviously, such a woman needs somewhere to live, and there should be a birthing room too, although presumably any woman coming to the temple wants to pray to the goddess. I wonder how much of a sacrilege it would be to have such a room within the very walls of the temple?"

"Sacrilege is one thing. The way I understand, birth is... quite a loud and messy affair" Felix nodded. "Any room or apartment like that would have to be in a... more secluded place." In the back of the temple, or in a separate building.

"I wonder how many women have found themselves in a similar position, coming to pray and finding themselves needing the more direct intervention of a good pair of hands," 

"Some that we know of. Domina mentioned the priestess complained of such incidents. I think... it would be prudent to take this task off their shoulders." Felix glanced over at Aulus. "You have a solution in mind, domine?"

@Sharpie

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"Which is more than a little odd, considering that Juno Lucina supposedly has oversight of childbirth as well as pregnancy and motherhood," Aulus observed. "After all, if she is responsible for pregnancy and then the motherhood that follows, shouldn't she also have oversight of the act that makes an expectant woman into a mother?"

Presumably, the priestesses were senators' wives and daughters who had never done a day's work in their lives other than (possibly) set up a loom and watched their slavegirls working at it. And maybe passed a rattle to their beloved son or daughter when spending time with their children and doting husbands.

"The issue is precisely that childbirth is a loud and messy affair... not that I know from experience, of course," he added dryly. "Yet Horatia felt it her duty to offer prayers in the temple itself, and presumably could not have gone elsewhere when everything began."

He could see only one solution at the moment. "If the temple were to be provided with a dedicated midwife, she would have to have somewhere to stay, a room for women to birth in, and its own altar and representation of the goddess herself, otherwise there will be more children born in the very temple."

Which would no doubt either do the old bats good, or cause them to expire of shock and vexation.

 

@Chevi

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His dominus was right, the temple needed a place where women could give birth, and feel close to the goddess. But not close enough to disturb the priestesses that were supposed to serve said goddess. In a comfortable manner, apparently.

"That... seems very likely, yes. Are you thinking of adding a building to the temple, domine?" Felix ventured, looking around in the grove. There would be ample space for a smaller building, without taking away from much of the greenery.

@Sharpie

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"Maybe, or maybe rebuilding the temple with an additional room for the purpose. I will have to consult with Horatia to see what she would consider the best course of action," he said. Rebuilding the temple would doubtless make the old biddies think. It need not detract too much from the peaceful grove around them, either. He had an idea that women came here to think and pray without needing to ask for blessings for a safe childbirth; it was a quiet, green spot in Rome in a place for women. There were several of them around, Aulus and Felix were the only men he could see.

"What do you think would be the best option?" he asked. It would be interesting to hear if Felix had any ideas to offer that he hadn't though of.

 

@Chevi

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Felix was used to his dominus asking for his opinion every once in a while, but those opinions so far had never included discussing the ideal setting for childbirth. He smiled a little, considering the grove around them, and the age-old building of the temple itself.

"I think adding a separate building would offer less hassle, less cost, and more privacy for the women" he noted, glancing back at his dominus. Those were certainly important things to consider. But the temple was also old, and as much as women liked to frequent it, it had somewhat fallen out of favor compared to many other temples in the city. "... but rebuilding the whole temple, maybe in marble... the cost would be great, but the honor would also be great with it."

@Sharpie

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Aulus could certainly afford to rebuild the temple completely, with the proposed addition. It would probably put the old biddies into flutter, to learn that their temple (well, the temple they were responsible for, under the Pontifex Maximus) was going to be demolished and rebuilt. It would surely do them good, though.

"Expense is surmountable," he observed. He was a senator, he had access to funds, and a good income from estates and the business dealings run by the family's freedmen and clients. Money was (almost) no object - and Felix was not wrong when he said that there would be honour in it.

"I think we should not trespass on this sacred grove any longer," he added. "It's something to think about - let's go home." He glanced over his shoulder. "We could get lunch on the way, if you'd like."

 

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