EPILOGOS: The last word in my novel of a Vestal Virgin of Ancient Rome, and her friendship with Julius Caesar.
I, Lucia Clara, devoted servant of the Goddess, now complete this account for the Archive of the Goddess, the sisters, and for the reader of the future who may chance upon these lead tablets when Romalia is no more, and Gaius Julius Caesar has been dead for a thousand years.
I married Azdrubal in the end, O Reader, for he convinced me that no one would bother to look into the unusual history of a Punic shipmaster’s wife. I retained the identity of Lutatia Clara, whose first husband was the nonexistent Gaius Vettius Novus. My dearest Az always called me Clara, and Maharbal was never told the full story of my irregular past. Still, I made sure to sleep under a different roof than Mago’s for three nights of the year, for in Roman law, this meant that I would not come “under the hand” and legal control of my spouse.
After hearing the news that Caesar’s will mentioned neither her nor Caesarion, Cleopatra fled Roma, and not a moment too soon, for a group of the conspirators had roused the People against her. The queen, Caesarion, Charmian and Bagoas were safe with me in the tunnels as assassins burst into Caesar’s villa, seeking to kill his son and prevent any future claims of sovereignty over Roma. The rest of the Aegyptian retinue found shelter in one of our houses until they were able to leave the city. Cleopatra claimed to be quite comfortable in Romalia, explaining that she had endured far worse during her exile in the desert. She held the sisters spellbound, telling how she first met Caesar when her man Apollodorus smuggled her into the Alexandrian palace, wrapped in a rough sack and slung over his shoulder.
Gaius Julius Caesar’s ravaged corpse was cremated publicly in the Forum, as Marcus Antonius displayed a wax replica covered with twenty-three stab wounds. The People were roused to fury against his killers, and to passionate veneration of Caesar himself. For three nights during the obsequies, a great comet blazed in the sky, announcing his apotheosis as the Divine Julius. Thus he was not wholly lost to me.
Before dawn, late in the month of Mars, the queen’s small party sailed for Alexandria in Azdrubal’s ship Hercules under his personal command, and I accompanied them. Thus it was that I beheld the Library at last, and spent a wondrous month there as the queen’s guest, reading and copying more treasures than I have space to recount. Immediately upon her return to her capital, the queen’s brother and consort, the teenaged Ptolemaeus, fourteenth of his name, died quite suddenly. It was said, and I do not disbelieve, that she had him poisoned in order to place Caesarion on the throne as her co-ruler. Whether she was truly pregnant with a second child sired by Caesar, I never knew. Two years later, Antonius became her lover, and as the Goddess foresaw, they met their ruin together.
When we returned from that month in Alexandria, Azdrubal took me to Panormus in Sicilia to meet our ten-year old son, Maharbal, whose name means “gift of Ba’al.” He was shy of me at first, but when I explained that my absence was due to a solemn oath I had sworn before his birth, he forgave me, and said that he approved of oath-keeping. In that way, he was like his father, who also forgave me, but more grudgingly. In time, Az understood that I loved him well. He never knew of the other love, the one I confided only to the Goddess.
Both Azdrubal and Marharbal are gone now, for I have lived too long. In the twenty-second year of the reign of Commander Caesar Augustus, adopted son of the Divine Julius, he who was once called Octavius, I was welcomed as a sister of Romalia once again. Though I am pleased to be home, and wear my token always, I have never used it again, nor have I spoken with the Goddess.
I trust that soon, She who gave my body will take it back.
Copyright 2020 by Linnet Moss
Thank you to my loyal readers!
Thanks for writing and sharing: it was a pleasure to read Lucia’s story!
Thanks for reading, Lonneke! So glad you enjoyed.
Paul S said:
Although I’m sad we’ve reached the end, it’s been very enjoyable sharing Lucia’s journey. In a dark period your posts every day have been a ray of light. Thank you.
Thanks for being such a faithful reader, Paul! I’ve enjoyed having you along for the ride!
Just wanted to say thank you for posting and sharing your novel with us for the last 57 days. Reading the chapter became my daily morning ritual – always in bed, just before I got up. Along the way I have learnt a lot about the Roman Republic – and Caesar. I very much liked Lucia and her journey. She was easy to identify with – because she was able to breach the confines of female oppression.
Anyway – great work, I always enjoy reading your serialised novels. In fact, I might just re-read your Philadelphia-set novel the chapters of which were always marked by different fragrances. Or the other wonderful one that was about an early medieval (?) manuscript. I’d like to revisit the characters again.
Thank you Guylty for these wonderful comments. I’m so glad you enjoyed this book and the others too. Sometimes I re-read them myself, for comfort : )
Thank you for sharing this story with us, Linnet. Each chapter was a pleasure to read and Lucia was easy to identify with. Her adventures were both exciting and educational and the conclusion was perfect!
Thanks Karen for being a faithful reader! I am glad that you like the conclusion. It’s always difficult to know how to end a book, and this one was doubly difficult because of Caesar’s end. I am mulling over a sequel, but Augustus doesn’t interest me as much as Caesar : )
Caesar would never have comprehended how he garnered a small coterie of faithful admirers two thousand years in the future 😉!
Yes, I think he would have been quite pleased with his “apotheosis” and would definitely have approved Mr. H.’s line “HE WAS A CONSUL OF ROME!” There is an allusion to that line in my story where the Goddess is speaking of Caesar and emphasizes that he is a “Consul of Roma” as if it is a very Big Deal : )
Thanks, Linnet, for this great piece of writing. I waited patiently for the last chapter before reading it, and it took me far from a boring confined Sunday. Being very familiar with that period of time since I’ve always had a soft spot for Caesar (despite his destroying my Veneti ancestors), I’ve read a lot about it, including all the novels I could lay a hand on, and I loved the originality of your story. Intelligent reading is so rare nowadays, that I appreciate all the more your erudition, and style. The idea of an utopian community of women living in a kind of parallel world, free from the men and their despicable thurst for power and money, is trully exciting.
You are so knowledgeable about this time period, Sylvie, that your vote of confidence means a lot to me! I’m glad you liked the fantasy part too. The utopian world of women underneath Rome came to me in a dream. That’s how most of my stories begin. The original title was “the Scholar-Maidens” and it was more about the Archive, but then I decided to focus on Caesar. Dealing with the revolt in Gallia was one of the most difficult parts to write.
Markus + Micah said:
I came here to witness the end. Was not able to follow everything but still a good read!
Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading!