Rome before his feet


Dressed in fragrant laurel, he was a victor against Barbarians from the North. General Lucius Sulla had once again Rome before his feet. This was another day a triumph, a day to be benevolent, a day of smile and orgies; tomorrow there would be trials: tomorrow there were traitors to be killed and maimed.

The Auriga was a young boy with blond hair, a captured prince of the barbarians, and though he knew his duty well, he hesitated before daring to whisper:

Memento Mori, memento mori, General

General Sulla grinned and tousled the boy’s hair.

You too, my prince.

I have always dreamt about the habit of the triumphants of Rome having a slave whispering a remainder that they also would die. General Sulla was one of the really big generals of Rome and I imagine that also he would go through Rome in triumph, and I have always guessed that there would be those that were less happy when he returned than others.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix

Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix

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May 20, 2015

66 responses to “Rome before his feet

  1. I always liked the tale of the slave behind the victor whispering. Being pragmatic, I can well imagine the Romans doing this for real. I heard this as a child and it deeply impressed me. This was an excellent bit of Fiction. I like the General tousling the boy’s hair.

  2. I love a bit of Roman historical prose now and again. Have you watched Spartacus? Brilliant programme. Shows the Roman Empire in all it’s gory finery.

  3. Interesting. I imagine too there were plenty happy to see some of their oppressors not return. Though, then the slave only changes hands. Well written Bjorn.

  4. Thanks for the fresh look at ancient Rome, Bjorn. So much of that culture has heavy influence even today. The stories bear retelling.

    All my best,
    Marie Gail

  5. Thanks for a story from history! I can see the victor riding through Rome with a crown of laurel around his head.


  6. Nicely told, Bjorn. I suspect the boy was also the General’s bedfellow – the Romans of the era were notorious for sleeping with boys.

  7. Great story, thoughtful and educational. I’m rather proud that I actually know about Sulla. I suck at history, but years ago, I read Colleen McCullough’s (sp?) books about Rome and found them good reads.
    And the leaves are definitely laurel shaped (I’m not sure what it is either.)

  8. A unique take indeed. Makes me want to read much more of this – you really took us there. And that boy is both scared and very brave!

  9. I knew of that tradition. We’d do good to remember that also. Of course those generals were very likely not to live to be old. He looks like a really powerful man. Rome always seemed to be full of traitors and underhanded doings. Good historical fiction, Bjorn. Well done. 🙂 — Suzanne

  10. I didn’t know of this tradition. The Romans didn’t hesitate to live out each day fully like it might be your last and this would be encouraging for them to do so. Such a clever piece of historical fiction and expertly done. Come to think of it, this does look like a laurel leaf.

  11. I’ve never been to one, but I imagine those orgies could be quite exhausting. As far as the other tradition goes, I’m glad it’s been abandoned over time.

  12. When generals wore laurel crowns and princes were slaves. I wonder what the general meant when he replied ‘you too’ to the prince? Doesn’t seem to make tomorrow seem very hopeful, does it?

  13. I’m forever fascinated by all things Roman, but did not know about this tradition. I love the human touch with the General tousling the boy’s hair with the same hand that would have slaughtered numerous men in battle!

  14. Fascinating bit of history! The Romans must have been very grounded to remind themselves of their mortality. I wonder how in the end their brazenness led to their downfall …

  15. And now of course a timely piece in the light of your nation’s great victory over all of Europe (the new Europe that includes Australia). Just remember to be humble after the excess!

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