Friday, April 11, 2008


Welcome to the ROMAN TREK--presented as an ancient
journal of a Praetorian-Philosopher. It was written from
February to April, 2008. To follow this journal, go to the
last post (which is the Introduction) and then move forward.



Epilogue. TREK'S END?

Now nearly sixty years old, I have reached that stage where
I am starting to muse over my life. Mine, probably like anyone's,
has been a long trek. I have been probing my feelings about
my choices, what I have done, what may I have accomplished,
and always that re-occurring question: what's next?

For the most part, I have considered my life in terms of my
"Seeding" hypothesis. For me seeds are symbolic of
*information.* The seeds that make the plants, the trees,
and us humans grow are informative. They determine how
we and all the other inhabitants of Creation should unfold.

I purposefully inserted the word "should," however, because
it's clear that often we created beings do *not* unfold
successfully. Again, there's those variables that can prevent
our becoming who we should be. They can range from
impoverishment to lack of awareness to plain stubbornness!
The lucky ones are those who managed, somehow, to follow
their inner daemon.

Thus far Fortune has attended me. Looking back, I feel positive
about my life. I followed my inner daemon and have no regrets.

Using a tree as an analogy, I am inclined to think of my soul as
the trunk--and, in this life, I have sprouted at least two branches:
one the Praetorian, the other the Philosopher. Seeming perhaps
an odd combination, I can only say that the seeds in my soul
determined me to develop these two major characteristics.

As for "what's next," well I am not a fortune teller. I'll continue to
pay attention to my inner daemon, read carefully those events
come my way in that they may point to yet another direction.
Maybe I am now just to be a man of leisure. If so, no apologies.
I will accept with gratitude even that.

Occasionally, too, I wonder about a future life. Yes, I am prone
towards believing in an ever occurring cycle of new lifetimes.
Perhaps not quite Stoic, in that mainstream philosophers of
Stoicism developed the idea of "eternal reoccurrence." They
were thinking that somehow, at given periods, the whole world
would recycle and return to the exact way that it had unfolded
before, *ad infinitum.*

But I am more prone towards the transmigration of the soul,
reincarnation if you will. Plato believed in reincarnation, as
expounded in his "Phado." And Pythagoras said that he could
remember some of his past lives. So I am not totally alone in
my opinion.

I'm inclined to believe that our soul--that analogous tree--resides
in the Universal Mind, taking leave, returning, ever growing new
branches, until it has reached a magnificent completion! This
opinion of mine gives me a meaningful sense of purpose--and
openness! There's also a "duty" involved, I believe. We must
come to understand our connection with the Logos, with the
Pneuma, in terms of the importance placed upon our lives.

As the Stoics say over and over, "we are as a microcosm to the

Carthage (4)

The years have been rolling-by. As one grows older, time
seems to move faster. It has been more than a decade since
I moved to Carthage. And lots of water has flowed under the
bridge. I still am astounded that I became a philosopher
and essayist. Still, I have to remember that some of the great
Stoics were also military men--even emperors like Hadrian,
who considered himself both a Stoic and an Epicurean.
Perhaps there's a contradiction here?

Regardless, no matter any rules or regulations--even in the
Stoa--we humans probably will never be perfect beings. More
likely we will be contradictory in many ways. I am surely such
an example; but, fortunately, I rarely have felt that I need
apologize for my imperfections.

Well, I meander. Just to bring my journal up-to-date, I must
make mention that both my nephews here in Carthage married
Phoenician women. Their offspring now share a new infusion
of ancient mariner blood that surely compliments our Roman
family's shipping interests. These marriages, too, pretty much
guarantee our family now being "anchored" in Carthage.

Eventually, though not surprising, my older brother decided to
retire in Carthage. No doubt he wanted to play with his grand-
children, but just as likely he wanted to play in our Carthage
office. As for our middle brother, he and his older sons are
now running the Ostia office. It would seem that our shipping
corporation, though integral, is now split permanently between
the two cities.

I was pleased to hear that one of the younger generation up
in Ostia desired a military career. He is going the same route
as I followed years ago. I wish him good fortune. Over my
years as a military tribune, then as a Praetorian, I had the good
luck living in a mostly peaceful era. Our emperors, thus far,
have been fairly decent men. And Hadrian had the good sense
not to expand our imperial borders, which more than often led
to conflict in earlier times.

As for Hadrian, he died a few years ago. He was succeeded
by his adoptive son, our Emperor Antoninus Pius, who also has
proved to be a connoisseur of the Arts. Like his predecessor,
he has built theatres and temples. He even has granted prizes
to philosophers! Most important, however, thus far he has kept
the peace!

Marc's landscaping business has flourished. He even acquired
a small farm full of groves of olive trees. Though an absentee
owner, he manages to visit his farm frequently. For both the farm
and his business, he has hired many locals who seem to share
his enthusiasm when it comes to both horticulture and agriculture.
Over the years I have been very pleased with my cousin. He is
a man of good taste, full of vigor when it comes to his interests.

Me? Well, I have been winding down slowly. I still teach at the
Stoa, and I write an occasional essay. Maybe I'll get back into
my writing more prolifically--some day--but right now it's all on
a slow burner. I guess that I have become a man of leisure, in
that I quite enjoy sitting around reading, taking walks, attending
the theatre and musicals, enjoying lectures, or visiting the city
forums. Most of all, I love going down to the seashore--just
relaxing, watching the waves crashing onto the beach.

I have even made friends of our local birds. When walking in
the atrium, or sitting on our hillside, I have discovered the most
sweet little birds. And over time they, too, have discovered me!
Some sit nearby and sing. Other birds perform acrobatics for
my pleasure. And the hummimgbirds constantly mistake me for
a food source, sometimes nearly bouncing into my head before
realizing they have made a mistake.

Life in Carthage has been good. And I will never be sorry that
I made my home in this fair city!

Carthage (3)

Coming close to the time I was to give my first lecture at the
Stoa, I realized that I really had to send my old toga to a
laundry. The thought of it disgusted me, but it wouldn't do
wearing a toga yellowed by age. The laundry uses urine
as a bleaching agent. Indeed urine is used to dye our
clothing as well, mixing a color into the urine. My concern
was about whether my toga would come back nice and
white, yet smelling like pee! Fortunately all laundry is aired
thoroughly, before being returned to the customer.

So the day arrived. I stood up, smart in my glistening toga
with the narrow purple stripe, nervous as a caught cat,
scared to death of a bunch of people who all seemed far
younger than me! Where was that tough Praetorian in me,
when I needed him?

Fortunately I found him! Awkward at first, I slowly became
caught-up in my thoughts and mouthed them quite nicely.
The students and scholastics applauded, grabbing me after
the lecture, asking me all sorts of excited questions. They
seemed delighted to hear what I had to say. I was most
appreciative--and relieved. With such a happy beginning,
I felt confident that I could continue presenting future lectures.

So, with that, I became an adjunct lecturer at the Stoa as
well as a recognized scholar at the Collegio Carthago.
I had once again found a place in the world, if you will.
Like when I was in the Praetorian Guard, I now again
was a member of a collegial community and enjoyed a
comradeship that I respected.

Over time I came to enjoy the activities held in our Commons
building. There were free lectures, plays, musical events
for the entire community of the Collegio Carthago. Sometimes
there were even functions open to the public. One such in
which I occasionally partook was what we called the "Sun Day
Meet." We would come together in festive song, listen to a
small talk, and share a meal together.

On one such Sun Day, enjoying the festive music, I looked up
at the far wall. I had seen it many times before, but this time
the plaque on the wall hit me square. A large plaque, it
consisted of a huge golden sun disk with an engraved word
at bottom: "Illumination." This sun disk was the symbol of
the Collegio.

I thought about this idea of illumination, meaning light. For
the Collegio Carthago it was about the Light of Knowledge.
For me it was that, but also I felt that it was about the Light of
the Logos, permeating Creation and all of us who lived in
the world. This Great Light, the Light of the World, was our
hope, our meaning! Strange, but tears came to my eyes.
I touched that little sun disk pendent that I wore around my
neck and dedicated myself to this Great Light. Once again
I declared a sacred allegiance, but to the Logos--the true
Sol Invictus!

Carthage (2)

After attending the lectures on Providence and the Pneuma,
I decided to review all those notes on the religious cults that
had attracted me over all my years wandering about the Empire.
Reading through, I really wasn't able to make anything concrete
out of them--other than they reflected impressions of what
God might be like for any given person or people. Religion
had been around forever, and (for me) it seems strange.

Why Religion? Is it a way that the Logos communes with us?
If the Logos is Cosmic Reason, why is Religion often so
unreasonable? Maybe the issue points to our own inability
to receive the Numinous in a straightforward way. We have
not yet developed enough; thus, we work through our emotions.
More importantly, perhaps we are coming to grips with Deity
through our intuition? And in the end these efforts come to
reside in varied religious cults.

Eventually I stashed my notes back in one of my trunks, no
doubt frustrated trying to make sense of any of this. Then
Providence played a joke on me.

I found out that the patron god of Carthage was Saturn, who
was the god of agriculture. Considering all the farmlands
around, Saturn would seem a good selection. But Saturn was
more--he was oft called the "god of seeds." Oh yes, Someone
was pulling my strings!

Over time I tried to work into astronomy. It seemed an effort
in futility. Wherever I turned, I ran into astrology. It was like
meeting twins--one trying to be scientific, and the other delving
into magical fortune-telling. It was just too difficult trying to pull
these two areas of study apart. As for our recent efforts to devise
a more correct calendar, such was mainly based on lunar and
solar cycles that seemed to have more import for agriculture--
what with the emphasis being on seasonal change.

In the end I decided to keep trying to become more expert
reading the naturalist writings that Marc had collected. Also,
I made use of the library at the Collegio Carthago. And,
finally, I began writing some small essays--and effort, at first,
to try to help me see a pattern out of all the information I had
come across, whether philosophical, religious, or naturalist

I knew that I was treading on unsteady ground, but fortunately
I didn't sink into a bog. My essays kept growing until I had
quite a collection. If nothing else, they might prove interesting
to someone. Than again, maybe not. I had both Quint and
Marc look them over. Both of them found my ideas challenging.
At least my thinking was different.

Quint suggested that I might compile all these essays into a book.
How do you do that, I asked. Easy, go down to one of the local
booksellers and let them put all my material together. The process
proved fascinating. The owner of the bookshop explained to me
that booksellers all over the Empire have thousands of copyists
at hand. His copyists would make duplicates of my notes; and
through gluing together the pages, they are rolled into a scroll.
Depending on the size, sometimes two scrolls are tied together.
These scrolls become books. And depending on their popularity,
they can be duplicated again and again.

Hence, I became an author of a book. And much to my
amazement, my book became popular and was duplicated over
and over--sent to private collectors as well as libraries. My
bookshop owner made a lot of money, and I made some. So
I made us both happy by writing more essays, turned into books.
As time went by, I had become fairly well known. At this point,
Quint (who had now become the head of the Carthage Stoa)
invited me to be a guest lecturer, giving at least three
presentations over a year.

I warned Quint that I was *not* a purebred Stoic. No matter, he
laughed. Putting together all these variables--whether philosophy,
whether religions. whether natural studies--would make for a
fascinating lecture. Besides I had become well known as an
author and surely would draw a crowd. Quint felt that what I had
been doing, trying to integrate the information in these fields,
seeing new patterns, formulating new models of understanding,
was well worth hearing about.

Amused, I walked home shaking my head. I had become a

Carthage (1)

Chapter Twelve. LIFE IN CARTHAGE

Eventually I returned to the Stoa, and sat-in on lectures given
at the other schools, trying to understand better the various
concepts of both Providence and the Pneuma. As best as I
could determine, Providence was just another term or aspect
for the Logos (Cosmic Reason). As for the Pneuma, it was
the Spirit of the Logos that flows through all things and helps
evolve the world and all of life. Again a synopsis of these
teachings come my way.

• The Logos Teaching in the Pythogorean and Platonic
Schools was as follows: the Logos is not the First Cause...rather
the Logos represents the first level of real manifestation or Being,
for it encompasses within itself all the laws and relations which
are later articulated in the phenomenal universe.

• For the Stoics God as the Logos--as Cosmic Reason--was
Providence. This Providence ordained all things. God was Fate,
too. The Stoics believed Fate imposed upon humanity a certain
determinism that allowed for freedom only within the context of
a person's inner acceptance of cosmic necessity.

• Philo Judaeus--a Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria
during the last century--distinguished between the Logos and
God. His idea of the Logos as the "word of God" was specifically
derived from Jewish Hellenistic wisdom literature which used the
word "wisdom" essentially as the "word of God." Philo was
talking about the Sophia.

• Philo likened this wisdom, this Word, as to a spring of water--
in that out of reason flowed speech. Especially important in this
analogy is that Reason is the Source and the Speech is the Flow.
Philo presents us with a two-fold Logos--a Ground of Being out
of which flows manifested intelligence.

• Philo believed God acted in this world through certain Powers:
God's Goodness (Creative or Beneficient or Gracious Power);
and God's Sovereignty (Regent, Punitive, or Legislative Power).
Pneuma, in turn, is the sustaining cause of all existing bodies
and guides the growth and development of animate bodies.

Again, any scholastic could see that all these Greek or
Hellenistic philosophies, even that of the Stoa, were following
the same current of thought. As for myself, if I were eventually
to work this material into my "Seeding" hypothesis, later to
integrate these philosophies with any naturalist studies, or
with astronomy, I would have to begin with a certain perspective.

Frankly, I felt that all these philosophers to be initially speculative.
Still, they seemed to follow the same current of thinking. Was this
representative of a *deep intuition* on their part? Maybe so, in
that perhaps Providence and its Pneuma were guiding these
philosophers along a certain path--having them follow the same
mental current.

Being a pragmatic fellow myself, I narrowed all these philosophies
into a simple three-fold structure: The CREATOR of the world,
who as the LOGOS is the "Pantokrator," the sustainer of the
world, the Ground, the Godhead, who also moves the world as
the PNEUMA, the Spirit spreading forth in all directions, unto

From my own perspective, it would seem that we are dealing
with an Intelligent Universal Mind or Force who acts upon us
and the world, evolving and moving us towards an unknown goal
or a completion--both individually and collectively! Within this
structure, I felt that finally I might slowly be able to weave in my
"Seeding" hypothesis.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Africa (4)

Once the commitment had been made, it was like I had been
thrust into a whirlwind. Marc and my older brother would soon
return to Ostia and Rome; but, just as quick, my cousin planned
to return with his and my collection of travel chests. During the
interim I was to scout around looking for a villa.

Before he left, I asked how we would pay for a villa? Not to
worry, Marc noted that he was a rich man. And once I collected
my thoughts, I realized that I was also financially capable what
with not only my Praetorian pension but also an un-cashed
property stipend. Beyond this I had interest money--as a "silent
partner" in my family's shipping corporation. It had steadily
accrued during all those years I spent in the Praetorian Guard.

So it appeared that I had a bundle that would help go to pay for
a villa. Marc agreed to the terms I put about the villa. But then
he dumped on me the task of finding one!

The Collegio Carthago was located in the gentle highlands at
the edge of Carthage, and there were villas situated in the area.
So I asked Quint to ask around about any that might be for sale.
I also went to my Praetorian friend, who had his finger on the
pulse of the province. Between the two I might have some luck
finding something quickly.

It worked! My Praetorian friend notified me that an unused villa
had been up for sale for a long time. It was in the right sector,
not at all far from the Collegio Carthago. The only trouble was
that it was small. Most people ignored this little villa, because
they were looking to house their family. But I figured it might
be perfect for a couple of bachelors like Marc and me.

The little villa was run down, but appeared to be architecturally
sturdy. There would be a lot of work to be done, but the price
was right. So I bid on a contract, but would not sign until Marc
returned. My cousin moved fast and was back in Carthage
before the month was out. He looked over the villa very
carefully, with a more trained eye than mine. Well, yes, it
needed some serious repairs and the atrium garden would
have to be re-established. No problem, Marc could build us
a garden that would be the envy of Carthage.

As for any architectural renovation, well we could both have
input and oversight. Agreed, we bought the little villa and
moved in our travel chests. No matter we didn't have any
furniture. That would come soon enough. First of all we
needed beds upon which to lay our head. The rest would
follow. It just took time.

After some months getting all this endeavor completed, we
finally had a home. It was the first *real* home for me since
my youth, when I grew-up in my father's house. Inaugurating
our villa, we threw a party for friends and family in Carthage.
Quietly observing all this, I was standing outside looking
down the slight hillside. There were a number of young people
lounging on the grass, laughing, eating, tasting wine. All of a
sudden it seemed in my mind's eye that I stood outside of
myself and looked across at the scene. Then it flashed before
me, I remembered that prophetic dream I had so long ago at
the Pergamon Asclepeion.

It was like at least a part of this curious dream had come true!
Though still not boasting white hair, I had begun to gray around
my temples. The party was actually a birthday party--mine!
I had just turned forty-five.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Africa (3)

Looking up Quint turned out to be a discovery. Given correct
directions--this time--to find the Stoa, I was amazed over what
I found. Instead of one building, or just a small group of schools,
there was a whole campus of different philosophical schools.
Arranged as a quadrangle, all the school buildings were inter-
locked, with a shaded colonnade that provided a walkway
throughout. Beyond this, there was a common hall (for meetings,
other functions, even festivities) and a large library close but
separate from the quadrangle. And at each end of the campus
there were restful parks.

I couldn't believe this place! Called the "Collegio Carthago,"
it represented an organized consortium of different schools.
It was obviously a new concept, just as new as the campus
itself! Altogether, housed in these inter-locking but different
buildings, one could find the Pythagorians, the Aristotelians,
the Platonists, the Epicureans, the Stoics, the Rhetoricians,
and heaven knows who else!

Meeting one of the scholastics, the Stoa was pointed out to me.
Upon entering I asked of Quint, mentioning that he was an old
friend. I was in luck. He was about to lecture, so why not sit-in
and catch him following his presentation. I sat in the back
of the room, but just as Quint started he noticed me. Right in
the middle of a sentence, he stopped and snorted. He did
manage to make it through his presentation, and then he came
down the aisle and embraced me.

We headed off to lunch, over which I told him why I was in
Carthage. Quint was also pleased when I told him of my
being a scholastic at both the Athenian Academy and at the
Stoa in Rhodes. I told him about my "Seeding" hypothesis,
of how I was interested perhaps integrating these Greek
philosophies with "scientific" information observed by the
naturalists--and, perhaps too, with astronomy.

Quint thought my approach fascinating. He was not surprised
that I had chosen Rhodes to study a more eclectic Stoicism,
since it had a reputation of being more varied in its approach,
inserting new forms of information other than just ethics and
logic. I told him that I still would like to study more deeply
the concepts of Providence and the Pneuma. Quint was quick
to react, by pouncing on me the idea that I stay in Carthage
and continue as a scholastic at the Stoa here!

Bidding a good day to Quint, I headed back to my lodgings.
Along the way I pondered over his suggestion that I stay in
Carthage. Why not? The city was beautiful. The climate
was inviting. And I figured that I might fit nicely into the military
environment that prevailed.

Marc had already returned by the time I reached our lodgings.
He unloaded yet another surprise on me! He had decided to
move and make his home in Carthage. He said that it offered
that new venue he was seeking--and even more, that in the
more arid areas of the province he would be installing Persian
gardens. Learning about this new kind of garden would provide
a fresh intellectual challenge.

Still the surprises kept coming. Marc wanted me to stay in
Carthage with him, sharing a villa perhaps. Before I could think,
my mouth opened. My response was that the villa would have
to be located near the Collegio Carthago, because I intended to
finish my studies at the Stoa located there and wanted to be

Gasping, I couldn't believe what I had just said. I had just made
a commitment.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Africa (2)

Fortunately, before the sunset, my nephews at our company
office had found us lodging nearby. Marc had just returned
after an all day conference with his fellow gardener. He liked
what his friend told him--in that Carthage was ripe for the
taking, when it came to major garden projects.

The city was rife with temples, many still seeking a "sacred
garden" on their grounds. The same could be said of the
smaller towns around Carthage. And I had asked my Praetorian
friend if he had any advice in this respect. He said that the
Procounsel surely would be very impressed over Marc having
helped build a major garden at the Emperor's villa in Tivoli,
and likely would appreciate Marc taking a look at the Palace
gardens which seemed worse for wear.

All in all, it was a great day for Marc. He was really pleased
and was already making plans. He decided that the next day
he would like to travel out to one of the nearby towns; and,
naturally, he wanted me to come along. I bulked, because
I knew those camels were lurking about on the outskirts. But
not to worry, the legionaries had built an excellent road system
all around Carthage.

Indeed, they had built a major road that led through all the way to
Alexandria in Egypt. Of course this primary road was built for
military purposes. If ever a need arose, the Third Legion Augusta
could make speed on such a road. That's why there were major
road networks all over the Empire; but, additionally, these roads
also served civilian traffic.

So after a good night's sleep we headed out at sunrise. I could
still sit a horse, and we found a nearby town that probably was
representative of all of them in the farmlands. Marc was interested
in building gardens for the smaller towns as well. I was more
curious about the living conditions, the social arrangements
of these towns. While Marc talked horticulture, I talked with an old
centurion about how he liked living in Africa.

This old fellow was actually one of the earlier generations who
came to colonize the Africa Province. Like many others, he put
down roots and fathered a new generation. The children and
grandchildren of these colonists now called these Roman enclaves
"home." So what he was saying was that not everyone who currently
lives in the province once carried the short sword.

A lot of the younger generations make their living off the land or
as craftsmen or as shopkeepers. They worked in occupations
necessary for any community. And that was true in Carthage itself,
though it still possessed a strong military character. Yet the small
towns were growing, getting bigger and richer--and, yes, newly
retired legionaries were still coming, but there were all these others
who had different backgrounds and needs. It seemed there was
more variety to the province than what I first assumed.

We made it back just before dark, thank goodness! Over a late
dinner I told Marc that he could hike around on his own the next
day, because I planned to find Quint who--as far as I knew--was
still in Carthage and teaching at the Stoa.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Africa (1)

Chapter Eleven. AFRICA

Ending a quick journey down the coast of Italy, with a supply
stop in Sicily, we finally saw Carthage on the horizon. We
weighed anchor in the commercial harbor, which was situated
next to a separate military harbor. The presence of the Roman
Navy seemed everywhere.

As I was to discover, Carthage was utterly different from all
the other cities I had seen during my travels. First of all, it was
Roman in character. Latin was the main language, followed
by Punic. As for Greek, mainly only merchants used it--and a
few people like us *equites.*

The language reflected the recent history of Carthage. Built
centuries ago, a colony of the Phoenicians, a Semetic people,
it was destroyed after the Punic Wars. But the city was raised
again, under the aegis of Julius Caesar and the Emperor
Augustus. Thousands of retired legionaries poured into the
new city, pensioned and claiming their land rights.

We were told that at least 100 Roman towns had been built in
the province, in the farmlands not far from Carthage. The
farms and the imperial plantations in the area provided all sorts
of foodstuffs as well as cereal and olive oil (for lighting our lamps).
They could be transported to various points in the Empire. And
our family's shipping corporation was right there, doing business!

My older brother quickly stationed himself at our Carthage office,
immediately snooping over his sons' shoulders. As for Marc,
he went to meet a gardener contact he had met earlier in Rome.
To turn a pun, he was looking to get the "lay of the land."

As for myself, I dropped by the Praetorian office at the Governor's
Palace. I had heard that one of my junior officers--years back--
was now a senior officer in the Speculatore unit. Delighted to
see me, he gave me a grand tour of the city.

I must admit that Carthage had to be one of the most gorgeous
cities I had ever seen--and I had been around to compare! A
goodly portion of the city still seemed new, and there was obvious
expansion as well. Besides the harbors, a great bath facility was
located near the water. Not much myself for using civic baths,
I had to admit this one was on a scale all by itself. There were
also temples and marketplaces and a grand amphitheatre where,
alas, bloodsports were the main event. Roman to the hilt, I guess.

But what struck me about Carthage was the natural beauty of its
environs. There were gentle highlands, all sorts of trees--such as
sea pine, cyprus, and palms. Not far, too, there were white sandy
beaches. And my Praetorian friend touted the weather, simply put:
absolutely splendid!

I spotted the great aqueduct that was near completion. Sponsored
by our Emperor Hadrian, it would soon bring water down from the
distant mountains. As for the city and the nearby farmlands, there
was well water. And being along the Mediterranean coast, there
was moisture that produced enough rain to fill the catch-basins all
around. Both the rain and the wells made it possible to irrigate the
agricultural areas, earning this Province the reputation as the
"Granary of the Empire."

Being old Praetorian chums, it was natural for my friend and I to talk
about the military in the area. It turned out that one of the Augusta
legions was stationed on the border between Africa and the Province
of Numidia. Near the Sahara, Numidia was a frontier province of
Berber kingdoms. The Berbers were the indigenous people of the
region. They were also in the Africa Province, and even some were
in Carthage. To my amazement, my friend mentioned that ancestors
of the Phoenicians were to be found in Carthage as well, hence the
Punic language alongside Latin.

So there was some diversity in Carthage, but overall it and the rest of
the Province was very much Roman As my Praetorian friend joked,
"you don't need a legion in this town, because one could find retired
centurions and legionaries in just about every house." And than there
was the Navy base! One did not have to second-guess that Carthage
was very much a "military town."

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rhodes (4)

In the meanwhile I was about to attend extra lectures at the
Stoa that focused more deeply into the character of Providence
(the Divine Mind or Cosmic Reason) and the Pneuma (the
fiery breath or Spirit), but that was not to happen!

I had received a letter from my oldest brother, sent originally
to the Academy in Athens and then forwarded on to the Stoa.
Receiving letters via the Praetorian mail service was much
more expeditious than my situation, now, as a plain citizen.
Anyway, I could see that the letter was months old. And when
I began to read it, I was struck by shock and sadness.

It seemed quite awhile back Marc's mother--my aunt Eleana--
had died after a short illness. Even worse, only a few weeks
later her husband died! I had heard of these strange kind of
occurrences, where grief determined an attached soul to
follow its mate into death. It's an unaccountable phenomenon
that does happen.

Reading this letter, I felt strongly that I had to return to my family
quickly. Over time I had become close friends with my cousin
Marc, and I wanted to be a comfort for him--if possible. So I
gathered my notes, said goodbye to my Stoic mentor, and
grabbed the first ship leaving Rhodes for Athens--and ultimately
on to Ostia and Rome. At this point it seemed that my scholastic
days were over!

Upon return, after spending a small amount of time with my
brothers, I traveled to Marc's villa. I wasn't comfortable
offering sympathy, in that I didn't want to seem maudlin. Not
to worry, I couldn't if I tried. Marc was very pleased to see me.
He could readily see that my sympathy was genuine. And, as
it were, he was far and away from the initial sadness of his
parents' deaths. I had to remember that they both died quite
awhile ago.

Indeed, Marc presented me with a surprise. I was the first to
know, but he and his brothers had arranged to sell their villa.
And Marc had decided to leave Rome! Over the years he had
done incredibly well as a master gardener. And he had literally
amassed a fortune following the success of his landscaping

But, he had grown tired of the same--so to speak. Rome now
had too many parks. The project at Tivoli had been completed.
So major projects were no longer plentifully forthcoming. As for
the landscaping of private homes and villas, well such continued
to be a profitable undertaking but the work was hardly challenging.

So, Marc decided that he wanted to move to a new venue! He
was preparing to visit the Province of Africa, where all sorts of
new towns had been established for retiring legionaries. There
were major gardens to be built. Indeed, there would be new
challenges considering the arid climate that reigned in most of
Africa's inland. Marc had heard that Persian gardens were the
vogue in this part of the world. So it seemed that Africa could
provide a wonderful new challenge for him.

With this, he very much wanted me to accompany him down to
Africa to take a look. Marc's proposal was almost like a body blow,
in that I had barely returned from my sea journey from Rhodes and
Athens. Traveling wasn't as easy for me as when I was younger.
Regardless, I agreed to accompany Marc to Africa--though I had
no idea what might lie ahead.

Upon hearing our plans, my older brother decided that he wanted
to travel along with us. He wanted to visit two of his sons who now
were in charge of our corporation's shipping office in Carthage. Both
Marc and I winked, knowing full well that the "old man" was planning
to check-up on the boys.

With this, we merry threesome boldly decided to take passage on
one our company's merchant ships. No amenities for the passenger
aboard this kind of vessel, but we made do and headed for Africa.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Rhodes (3)

As we moved on into Stoic physics, I could readily see why
it was important first to review the older Greek philosophers.
It became obvious that the Stoics blended all these older
concepts together to develop their own sense of cosmology.

• Ancient Greek physics consisted of air, fire, water, and earth.
Consequently, Stoic philosophers forged their cosmology
within this context. Also, earlier Greek philosophy held
that the cosmos as a whole was a single living being.

• Even more specifically, early Stoic philosophers stressed
a cosmic-biological character when it came to the universe.
For example, the early Stoics believed that the cosmos
originated out of the "fire of the conflagration." As Zeno
of Citium (the founder of Stoicisim) reportedly put, the fire is
"as it were a seed of the future cosmos, possessing the
*Logoi* (Reason) of all things."

• Eventually this primeval fire changes into water. Out of this
comes the concept that body and soul are as two distinct
entities, in that the water is body and fire is soul.

• Continuing with biological terms, the Stoics refer to seed
in terms of sperm, which was wet, watery. As put by one
lecturer, "as the seed is embraced in the seminal fluid, so
also this (i.e. god), being a *spermatikos logos* of the
cosmos is left behind--making the matter adapted to himself
for the genesis of the next things..."

• Eventually Stoic physics moved beyond biological terms
when it came to discussing the cosmos. They considered
*Pneuma* (Spirit) as an all-pervasive intelligent force that
mixes with "shapeless and passive matter" and imbued it
with all its qualities.

• The Stoics also referred to *heimarmene* as an orderly
succession of cause and effect. As put from the lectures,
"heimarmene is the natural order of the Whole by which
from eternity one thing follows another...and embodied
in the definition of heimarmene follows its meaning as
*Logos* (Eternal Reason), as the divine order and law,
by which the cosmos is administered."

• Essentially this idea of Eternal Reason--the *Logos*--is
about an intelligently designed Fire that structures matter
in accordance with it's plan. Hence, out of a "shapeless
and passive matter" the Stoics endowed the cosmos with
Intelligence and Reason via the workings of the Fire of the
Spirit, the *Pneuma.*

• In due course the Stoics addressed the existence of human
beings in this Living Cosmos. They considered Man as a
microcosm to the macrocosm. Referring back to the Pneuma,
the Stoic philosopher Chrysippus considered that "the cosmos
is permeated and given life by the Pneuma, the same...makes
a man a living, organic whole." Hence, the Stoic emphasis on
the microcosm vis-a-vis the macrocosm!

My reaction to all this was satisfaction, in that all by myself,
harkening back to my cousin Marc's agricultural notes, that
I had been inclined towards my very own "Seeding" hypothesis.
BUT--well and good, whether my own considerations, whether
that of those ancient philosophers unto the Stoa, in the end
*all* of this amounted only to philosophic speculation!

Perhaps pragmatic, but I would have wished for some tangible
proof that stood behind all the speculation. I did know that
surely some of these philosophers worked from their own
observations of the physical world. One example was
Anaximander, who drew his conclusions from his studies
in astronomy and by observing natural surroundings.

Maybe the study of astronomy might be my next step, though
I had little idea how I might begin. So often astronomy has
been mixed with astrology, which seemingly indulges more
into fortune telling. No, that wouldn't do--not at all. It likely
will not be easy finding serious astronomers who might
provide some valuable insight into how the heavens and the
earth work.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Rhodes (2)

Reviewing these old philosophers, I found small gems of
information when it came to my trying to understand the
greater world and essentially what moves it. Again, just
a quick synopsis derived from lots of notes.

• Thales. He held that matter existed in a fluid stage (actually
more than water). He believed that "fluid matter" was in some
degree alive; and change and action in nature were partially
explained by this aliveness.

• Pythagoras. He held that all things are numbers. His study
of the mathematical ratios of musical scales and planets led
him to believe that the quantitative laws of nature could be
found in all subject matter.

• Anaximenes. He put forth that the basic stuff of the world is
neither water nor boundless, but rather air. He likely chose
the term "air," because at that time it conveyed the idea of
"breath," the "soul" that animated man and animals.

• Democritus. His atomic theory is as follows: 1.) that matter
comes in separate small particles, atoms, which are uncuttable;
2.) that an empty space exists in which these particles move;
3.) that the atoms differ only in shape and volume; and 4.) that
all change is the result of transfer by momentum by the moving
atoms and such transfer can occur only by contact.

• Parmenides. He believe that atoms were small chunks of the
"One Being."

• Anaxagoras. He developed the view that matter is a continuum--
giving both space and time the property of infinite divisibility. Yet,
the world is made of a single "stuff" and there can be no change.
He also believed that in everything there is a part of everything.
Additionally, he addressed what he called "Nous" (Reason or
Mind). He believed that there was a Universal Mind that remained
"unmixed and pure," that saw and knew all things, and that this
Mind originally set the world (the Cosmos) in motion and continues
to power it. And, lastly, he thought that all things had some share
of this Universal Mind--Man, in particular.

• Heraclitus. He believed that the world is like a restless "fire."
It is a living fire that supplies the driving force of the world in
endless change. As surmised by others, this fire imagery is
analogous to Energy.

Whew! Maybe *old* philosophers, but these great thinkers nearly
threw me off my chair! It was all I could do to bend my own little
mind around their challenging thought. After some very long and
arduous consideration, this is how I put more of their thought together.

• In Anaximenes' Law of Nature, he notes that one contrary tends
to develop excessively, crowding out its opposites--but "justice" sets
it back, penalizing it for its encroachment. But as time passes, the
opposite that had been losing out grows strong and oversteps in its
turn, and must "according to the measure of time" be set back within
its own proper bounds.

• As for Heraclitus, all things flow--but "strife is the father and lord of
all." Opposition unites. From tension comes concord. And yet, from
the purposeless cyclic flow of time, there does result *logos*--a formula,
word, ratio, cosmic order.

• Anaxagoras claims that the world is made up of "opposite" qualities,
such as hot and cold or moist and dry.

Examining and re-examining their philosophic thoughts, I realized
that these ancient thinkers were attempting to present a map of how
the world works. And the way that we could come to read this map
was through Reason! As examples...

• "Being that is," according to Parmenides, can be grasped by Reason,
perhaps supplanted with a kind of intellectual intuition; but it cannot
be observed in our common-sense world or expressed in ordinary
language. The mental tools that enabled us to grab hold of this new
mental map was via Abstract Thinking and Logic employing "models,
"laws, and consistency."

• As for Abstract Thinking, this would be enabled by the development of
pure mathematics. Pythagoras pointed to the discovery that numbers,
figures, and relations have a kind of reality of their own. And via
mathematical abstractions we are moving into Plato's Forms.

• As for Logic, from Democritus' atomic theory it was discovered that
the theory itself contained methods and logical rules of its own--by
examining a subject matter into its least parts on to their pattern or

• As for Models, Anaximander introduced models into his study of
astronomy and geography.

• And, finally, Consistency. Parmenides hit upon a most important
principle. Once it is recognized that only consistent entities can exist,
the truth of generalizations can be tested by examining their consistency.

Too, too much! But I asked for it. I'm trying to learn--only to find out
that once I learn one thing, there would be a dozen more things to
learn *infinitum.* All this, and we hadn't even reached the great
philosophical concepts of the Stoics! Eventually I was to discover
that the Stoa brought so much of these earlier philosophies into a
tighter context.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Rhodes (1)


Situated in the same island chain as Kos, it was a quick cruise
to Rhodes whilst skirting the coast of Asia Minor all the way.
Entering the harbor, I remembered all those years back when
I made a short stop at Rhodes on my way to a Praetorian

The city of Rhodes was situated on the northern part of the
island, abutting the harbor. I made inquiries where the Stoa,
the Stoic school, might be located. One of the pier hands
gave me directions, but they took me to the wrong school.
I ended-up at the School of Rhetoric, which is famous
throughout the Empire. Nice to see, but it was not where
I wanted to go.

Eventually I found my way to the Stoa which, after all the
trotting around, turned out to be not far from the harbor.
After finding lodgings nearby, I was glad that we were going
to be close to the sea. I was told as the warmer months
encroach, the island of Rhodes would really become hot--
especially inland. The best spot to keep cool was right
where I was situated.

Rhodes referred to itself as the "Island in the Sun," what with
nearly constant sunshine all through the year. It was also no
wonder that Helios was the patron god of Rhodes. Helios
was a personification of the sun, oft depicted driving his chariot
across the sky each day. It was easy, but not correct, to connect
him with Apollo--another sun god.

So it was no wonder that in Rhode's marketplace I found a
myriad of jewelry devoted to Helios, including his representative
sun disks. Laughing to myself, I thought "why not?" Then and
there, I bought a small sun disk pendent in order to make my
recent Asclepeion dream more of a reality.

I had a few weeks before the Stoa at Rhodes resumed for the
coming year, so I bided my time by touring the island and its
other towns. It was a pleasant place, though more rocky than
Kos. And I was to discover its wonderful wines and fruits.
Fresh fruit is something that cannot be transported, because
it decays quickly. So you have to eat it where it can be found.
Lucky me! Rhodes abounded in all sorts of fruits that I gulped
down while relaxing on hillsides looking towards fields and
fields of grape arbors.

But my short pleasure-taking came to end. The Stoa was ready
for business, so I busied myself determining what lectures I wished
to attend as well as selecting a mentor. But even before I was to
delve into any specific Stoic teaching, it was highly recommended
that I attend some background lectures on even earlier philosophical
teachings actually evolved some 500 years back. It turned out there
was a lot of serious Greek philosophy long before Socrates, Plato,
and the Stoa!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Athens (4)

Upon return to Athens, my time at the Academy quickly came
to an end. Winter was approaching, and many students and
scholastics from other places were quick to catch ships so as
to beat out the oncoming winter storms that make the seas
dangerous. As for myself, I decided to set sail quickly to the
nearby island of Kos, spend some time there relaxing, and
then travel on to the island of Rhodes.

During my last months in Athens I had made inquiries at the
Stoa, the Stoic school, about continuing my studies there. But
I wasn't comfortable with their program, which mainly focused
on living the virtuous life. Indeed, most of the Stoic schools
scattered about concentrated on ethics. That included those
Stoics teaching in Rome, using the work of Lucius Annaeus
Seneca, written during the time of Nero, as well as the pragmatic
philosophy of Marcus Tullius Cicero, who lived during the time
of Julius Caesar.

As for the Stoic school at Nicopolis, in northwestern Greece,
founded by the famous philosopher Epictetus, it also stressed
ethics in terms of the virtuous life.

It wasn't that I was against the virtuous life, because I felt that
I had long instinctively tried to live such a noble way by following
the well-known Four Cardinal Virtues that I had been taught
since childhood. Simply put, they are Justice, Wisdom, Bravery,
and Moderation. Summed-up, for me, they cover quite readily
the territory of ethics.

I continued to be interested in examining my "Seeding" hypothesis,
now mainly from a cosmic or universal perspective. I knew that
parts of Stoic philosophy taught about the creation of the world,
about the beginnings, about the Force of the Logos-Pneuma.
It was this that I wanted to study. Fortunately I was told that the
Stoa on the Island of Rhodes was more engaged in this part of
Stoic philosophy. Indeed, it was far more eclectic in its approach--
so I was told. This seemed the selection for me, considering my
personal philosophic requirements.

So I pushed off from the Athenian port of Piraeus aboard a ship
bound for Kos, the birthplace of Hippocrates--regarded as the
father of medicine. Even in winter, the cruise was fairly safe in
that we stayed close to various Greek islands, then edged close
to the southern shoreline of Asia Minor, down into the nearby
Dodecanese chain of islands of which Kos was a part.

A beautiful island, with golden sandy beaches, hills, lovely
scenery, it was primarily a resort where one could relax at
its famous Asclepeion healing-center. I spent nearly a month
playing on the sandy beaches, rushing into the sea, relaxing
at the pools of the Asclepeion, looking down over the island
and sea. In fact we were so close that we could see the coast
of Asia Minor in the distance.

Near the pools, oft sitting under a muted transparent silk awning,
I spent most of my time popping grapes, munching fruit, drinking
cooled water and sometimes wine. Pure heaven! My aging body
was most appreciative.

Naturally there was a dream-center attached to the Asclepeion.
Remembering my dream at Pergamon, I thought it interesting
if I might have a follow-up that would perhaps make more sense
to me. Thinking to myself, at least engaging my dream wouldn't
be like magic or trickery--in that the source material came forth
from my own mind. Of course we humans are not above tricking
ourselves in this regard. That's why the Asclepeion dream-guides
are carefully trained, not pronouncing as much as easing the
dreamer into interpreting his own dream.

So I spent a night at the dream-center; and, yes, I had a special
but strange little dream. I dreamt that I wearing a second pendent
around my neck. It was a golden sun disk, sharing space with my
pendent of the Roman Eagle. My dream-guide asked what I might
make of this. Reverting to being a dunce, I was totally at a loss.
The guide wondered whether this sun disk might portend something
towards which my life would be dedicated in the future--in that my
Roman Eagle represented my past service with the Praetorians.

Perhaps, perhaps...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Athens (3)

During the height of the Athenian summer, the Academy always
declared a month's holiday for both lecturers and scholastics.
With this, I decided to escape the heat and head for Delphi.
Considered one of the most sacred sites in Greece, I had long
planned to go there. Now I had the opportunity, though it would
be a long trip through mountainous regions far north of Athens.

Fortunately I had my pick of caravans traveling to Delphi. It
seemed a cool place to go during Athenian summers. The
journey getting there was arduous, but I passed the time
enjoying the scenery and engaging in good conversations
with my fellow travelers.

Delphi, itself, rested on the side of a mountain called "Parnassus."
There was a theatre there for plays as well as nearby inns. After
settling-in, I found out there were two major temples in Delphi:
one to Athena, and the other to Apollo. Most importantly, the
Pythian priestesses resided at the Temple of Apollo.

Most people wanted to present a question to the Pythia, the
selected priestess who served as the "Oracle of Delphi." As
I came to understand it, one writes a personal question that
usually pertains to one's fortune or future, submits it to a priest
of Apollo, who then gives it to the Oracle.

The Oracle goes into a frenzy, probably--in my estimation--
because she is drugged or intoxicated by all the underground
fumes that rise up in fissures found in the floor of the Temple.
In her frenzy, she speaks in gibberish to the priest. In turn, he
somehow manages to translate her answer to the submitted

Well, thank you anyway! I wasn't about to engage in that kind
of religious magic which smacked of human trickery. So the
Oracle got no question from me. Regardless, I did take note
the inscription in the vestibule of the Temple of Apollo. It said
"Know Thyself." That's an important suggestion for any soul,
if you will. But I'm not sure we will come to know ourself through
trickery or magic. For me, it's more about my own inner work
and applied learning.

Still, I didn't come away from Delphi disappointed. The second
temple I visited there was dedicated to Athena. Having now
spent some considerable time in Athens, having visited the
Parthenon on the Acropolis, I took time to attend more to this
powerful daughter of Zeus and Metis, who was a goddess of
wisdom and knowledge.

The myth tells us that Zeus seduced Metis, and then feared that
their offspring might be a son who would supersede him. This
led him to swallow Metis--but it didn't do any good, in that Athena
was born out of Zeus' ear (I believe). Literally at birth this great
daughter came forth fully armored. She was a powerful warrior
goddess, yet full of wisdom. She so enamored Zeus that she
became one of his favorites amongst his many children.

As for Zeus himself, I never much liked him--even though he was
declared our "Father." He was a seducer, indeed more than often
portrayed as a rapist. He not only seduced goddesses, but human
women. Hence we have quasi-sons of Zeus running about all
over the landscape.

But Athena (known as Minerva in Rome) quite appealed to me,
probably because of her combination as a warrior who was wise.
I must admit that I saw myself some like Athena. Here I had lived
a military life, as a Praetorian Speculator, and now I was striving
towards some semblance of wisdom through my studies. In the
end, of course, I found that wisdom was an ingredient born of
not only study, but also of one's personal nature and experience.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Athens (2)

This synopsis about Plato's philosophy comes from the mass
of notes I took over the many months while studying at the
Academy. Later I'll put all these notes of mine to better use.

As I have come to understand, Plato's "Forms" are considered
to be ideas that are *not* just thoughts coming from our own
minds, but rather are inborn or *a priori* patterns that are an
immutable part of the structure of Reality. For example, before
we could build square buildings or perceive triangular objects
there existed in our mind the idea (or concept) of the Square
and the Triangle.

Plato also believed the Forms--or ideal patterns--stood
behind our firmly held inclinations towards Beauty, Equality,
and Justice. We may never totally achieve these "ideals,"
but they universally constantly stand within our minds. It's
like they are both the guidepost and the goal, simultaneously.

Interesting, too, was what I came to understand as Plato's system
of knowing Reality. It fell into a five-point progression, if you will.

• BECOMING: At the beginning of our human understanding, we
explained the world in terms of stories, poems, and myths. Hence,
even today, we have all these gods of ours.

• IMAGINATION: Then we began to learn from physical objects
and human conventions. In other words, we were beginning to
learn to "know how," discovering techniques for getting along in
this world. This was the beginning of our pragmatic leanings.

• BEING: Then we moved into another dimension, in that we
came to discover the "Forms" within our minds, hence we humans
evolved mathematics and logic--and were able to engage in

• UNDERSTANDING: From Hypothesis we naturally moved into
Theory. We had begun to reach into the "knowing why." We
explored systems, ideals, ideas as cause and realities. We could
look towards the sense of an "ordering principle," which for the
teachers of Plato was Reason--and it ruled over Nature as a
singled ordered system.

After going through all this really heady material, I still managed to
hang onto my own hypothesis about "Seeding." I suppose it is all
a matter of perspective, but I looked at Plato's Forms as the primary
seeds that enabled humanity eventually to come to know. And
as the seeds prescribed, like a tree or plant, our human minds were
unfolding. Hence we have these steps towards Knowing, as put
by Plato. Fledgling at first, growing, ultimately to maturity.

The problem in all this, of course, is that our struggle to know (or grow)
remains an uneven process at the individual's level. Some people
have the advantage of becoming more developed. Others remain
disadvantaged, poor in one way or another, and thus have not
attained to higher levels of Knowing. However, collectively, humanity
moves in this direction of Knowing more and more.

As for what purpose all this Coming to Know involves, well it would
seem a natural process that is leaning towards new adventures of
BEING. Perhaps, as we continue to unfold, those "Seeds" ultimately
will see the true light of day, and we will have fulfilled our duty as
human beings!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Athens (1)

Chapter Nine. BACK TO ATHENS

Sailing back to Athens, I felt if I were the navigator that I could
do it blindfolded--after having taken this route so many times!
Interestingly, I arrived in Athens just in time to watch the festive
parade to the nearby town and great Temple of Eleusius.
The famous Mystery School of Demeter was located there.

The goddess of the Earth, Demeter intrigued me. I found out
that the rites of this school focused on "seeding," Considering
the initial reason that I had come back to Athens, this seemed
a good sign. *Apropos,* at least. As for the Eleusinian
Mysteries, they were held once a year. Being secret, those
initiated into such were fairly closed-mouthed. Still, over the
years, some information about these rites came to light.

These rites revolved around the agricultural cycles of the
seasons, about planting seeds, about growth and harvesting.
But, in the case of the Eleusinian Mysteries, this seeding was
really about the odyssey of the human soul. At the beginning,
the soul is conceived in darkness, it traverses through suffering,
it faces the terror of death, and eventually is reborn into a
divine existence.

I found even this little amount of information come from
Eleusius fascinating. This was the very kind of territory that
I wanted to study! However, not expressly from a religious
perspective. Still I had to wonder about the "intuition" that
circulates around this particular religious cult. That proposal
would have to wait for another day, when eventually I would
examine all my religious notes over the years via this very

In the meanwhile, I made inquiries at the Academy regarding
its lecture schedule. Early Spring, I happened-on just at the
right time. I was given a layout of the entire academic year,
and I was able to make my lecture selections as well as picking
a mentor for individual conversations that followed the lecture

Happily, I would have time to refine any notes I might take.
And I would also have some time to devote to the beauty of
Athens. Also, my lodgings were perfect--looking out towards
the Acropolis.

At the very beginning of my study at the Academy, I was thrust
into unknown territories. During the first lecture I attended, we
scholastics were told that Plato believed that we humans were
born with *a priori* knowledge which we could process
intellectually, through our capacity for reason.

Oooh! Deep waters already! I had absolutely zero conception
as to what *a priori* might mean. Right off I had to dig around
and work, trying to understand. Eventually I found out that we
were dealing with a philosophical term that presumes that we
humans are born with a certain knowledge base that can allow
us to access "universals" such as Plato's Forms.

Most of our knowledge is empirically derived via our observations
of the physical world, which the philosophers call *a posteriori*
knowledge. But this transcendental knowledge we possess,
that we call *a priori,* is something implanted into our soul--perhaps
even before we are born, or at least before we begin to accrue
*a posteriori* knowledge.

Being so dense, so unlearned, I had to hope that I was getting
at least a partial grip on all this new information. I had to break
it down into simple terms before I could move into more sophisticated
philosophic territories. At this point I wasn't sure that I was "right"
about anything!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Respite (4)

After many months reading through all of Marc's naturalist notes,
I made an attempt synthesizing in my mind how all these different
categories of Life somehow fit together, connected with one another.

As I saw it, the main ingredient in all this was the Sun. Its warmth,
or energy, was utterly necessary for Life. Water was yet another
absolute requirement needed for the survival of Life. Climate
was an important variable, as well as Location, when it comes to
supporting Life. And within this context of necessities, there were
secondary considerations.

Within Location, the rock and soil type played a considerable role
determining the survival of Life. Climate was about weather, about
temperature and seasons. Also, there was the issue of Food. Upon
keen observation, one could spot the food webs in which different
animals--and even plants--participated. And far from being least,
there's the condition of Water--whether salty or fresh. Interestingly,
too, I noticed that certain animals as well as certain plants thrived
in their own special places. It would seem that they staked out their
niche, where they could thrive.

There nearly seemed a Relationship, or perhaps even some kind of
special Intelligence involved in the Natural World. I had never paid
attention before; but after studying and observing this world all
around me, I couldn't help but wonder! Talking with Marc, he agreed
with my premise--and he took it all a step further.

What interested him most was the idea of "seeding." Being a Master
Gardener, he was up close with seeds, with the unfolding of plants
and trees as they seemingly were designed to be. Marc felt that
there were ingredients within seeds that disposed the plant or tree
to become what it is meant to be. He felt that his theory applied to
animal life, too! And having said this, he dropped the idea that we
humans, too, are all part and parcel of this seeding process.

Need I say that I astounded by my cousin's thinking. Yet it seemed
logical, at least from his specialized observations--and even from
my own recent observations. This idea about humans perhaps being
seeded really grabbed my imagination. I wondered aloud "how" we
might even approach such a possibility? Marc responded, mentioning
that if he weren't so involved with his landscaping business he would
take time to study Plato's philosophy.

Evidently when he was a young student in Athens, he remembered
some of the teaching he received at the Academy--a Platonic school.
Marc remembered lectures about Plato's concept of the Forms, which
he felt could be likened to "seeds" that informed our human mind. He
continued, thinking aloud that these Forms may be a ruling part that
determines who we are to become, to be, how we actually unfold.
He believed that our natural disposition, our interests, reflect this
seeding, On the other hand, our position and condition in this world
can be likened to the soil in which we grow.

Marc wondered if I thought him crazy. Quite the reverse! I had rarely
felt so excited over an idea as this! I had discovered "what's next."
Right then and there I decided that I would travel back to Athens and
study seriously at the Academy, especially focusing on these ideas
that Marc had raised.

Not knowing it then, but I was embarking on a new life of Learning.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Respite (3)

My friend and cousin, Marc, very good naturely invited me to
stay awhile at his parents' villa just outside Rome. Grateful, I
moved in my travel chests mainly full of the notes I had taken
about the various religious cults I had studied over the years.
Looking over these notes, I wondered if I might do something
with all this work. At least I could continue my study, considering
the various cults rampant in Rome itself. But that had to wait,
because Marc made an interesting proposal.

He had won a coup, in that he was selected as one of the
master gardeners to help work on one of the gardens at our
Emperor Hadrian's new villa at Tivoli, located some twenty
miles outside of Rome. He suggested that I might like to spend
time with him at Tivoli, amounting to perhaps a couple of
weeks. Why not! Having never planted a flower in my life,
I couldn't figure how I might be of any help--but, at least, I
could observe and just relax and maybe even see Hadrian
walking about.

One of our most traveled emperors, Hadrian had only shortly
returned from trips to the northern parts of the Empire, and it
was rumored that he would eventually be heading out to
other parts as well. However, whether at home or away, the
Emperor focused on architectural and horticultural projects.
And his Tivoli villa was one of his major endeavors!

Marc was helping to build a beautiful "sacred" garden, based
on the Alexandrian gardens in Egypt. It was just a pleasure
sitting around, watching the development of this magnificent
project. What seemed to interest me most was the understanding
of developing plants and trees. How did the seeds unfold into
a finished flower or leaf or tree? How was the sun and the soil
and the rain necessary for their growth? Marc and I got deep
into these questions during our conversations.

After returning to Aunt Eleana's villa, Marc let me ponder through
his large collection of horticultural and naturalist studies--studies
by earlier observers, such as Pliny the Elder, who wrote countless
books on botany, mineralogy, geography, zoology, etc. Having
once been a military man, commanding a Navy fleet, I was amazed
that Pliny had the time for all his observations. If he had not been
killed by the Vesuvius explosion at Pompeii, I am sure he would
have written volumes more.

So, what with my now free time, why not barrel-in and read through
Marc's collection of naturalist studies. I seemed interested enough;
and that, in itself, seemed fascinating. Taking my friend Quint's
advice, I would dip into this new interest and see where it might
take me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Respite (2)

I was nearly quivering with excitement when we sailed into
Trajan's harbor at Ostia. Bouncing off the ship, I headed for
our family's office at the port. I knew that I would find one or
the other of my brothers there. The little gatekeeper was
at first scared, seeing my short sword slung around my
shoulder. I guess he figured a Praetorian was there to make
an arrest. Seeing me laugh, he relaxed as I told him who
I was.

Ushering me into the office, I embraced both my brothers!
Like me, they were overcome with joy. Being some fifteen and
thirteen years older than me, my two siblings didn't look much
worse for wear. I probably did, after all those rides on the camel.
Anyway, we joyfully made our way to my older brother's house
in town. Word spread quick, and soon I was surrounded by
nephews and nieces I hardly remembered or actually had
never met.

This brood of the new generation ranged in age from fine
maturity to sweet youngsters. That precious day I immersed
myself in family, utterly happy to hear all that had been
happening over the twelve years I had been away.

Much to my amusement, my brothers had enacted my early idea
about sending our company's ships forth to Alexandria. Indeed,
they went even further and had decided to stride the entire southern
coast of the Mediterranean on to Judaean ports, where they could
capitalize on the Nabetean traders who handled goods from India
and China. In fact, soon, two of my oldest nephews would be sent
to Carthage to open a company office there. That meant residing
in that city, but these two strapping fellows were raring to go!

Following a wonderful time well spent, I then went to pay my
respect to my Aunt Eleana. Like my older brothers, she also carried
her years well. We talked of Sybil. We both cried together, but
afterwards enjoyed each other's company. Fortunately my cousin
Marc came riding home as I was about to leave. Again, another
marvelous reunion with a dear family friend. He insisted I stay
over night at the villa, before I reported back to the Praetorians.
He didn't have to twist my arm.

Since the time he studied with the Egyptian gardener in Alexandria,
he did go on to Athens to study Greek gardens and eventually was
hired by the city of Rome to help plan and oversee its many parks.
Over the years, his experience and reputation grew--and eventually
he was licensed as a Master Gardener by his union. With that, he
built his own landscaping business with the financial help of his
father. His roustabout brothers had already received their share,
when they went into the property management business.

I was very pleased for Marc. Here was a gentleman who did look
into himself, decided where his natural inclinations would lead him,
and followed through. And he did it while young! I applauded him
in my mind. Than again, I knew what I wanted to do, who I wanted to
be, when young. But, now, my living the military life was drawing
to a close. Again I had to ask myself "what's next?"

In the meanwhile I was still a Praetorian. Reporting in at the Camp,
I was shown my rooms--where, relieved, I found my traveling chests
stashed in a corner. I was given deference as a senior officer with
the Speculatore unit and was assigned to their committee that
reviewed all incoming information, determining whether any of
these courier reports were of any significance to selected officials
of the Imperial Service.

The months rushed past, and suddenly the day of my retirement
had arrived. I was guaranteed a hefty pension. I was allowed to
keep the Praetorian pendent which I wore around my neck. It
was an engraved eagle standing on a round platform, symbolizing
the Roman Eagle rising forth all around the Empire. I did have to
give over all my military gear, including the short sword. At that
point I reflected that *never once*-- either with the Legion or
with the Praetorian Guard--had I ever wielded this powerful sword
against another.

Somehow that thought greatly pleased me, as I walked away into
an unknown life. I was now into my forty-second year.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Respite (1)

Chapter Eight. ROMAN RESPITE

Again I was involved in a long sea journey. Riding the
Navy vessel we stayed close to the land until we crossed
over to the Island of Cyprus. Just plain tired, I didn't
reconnoiter this island while our ship was bringing in
more supplies. I stayed at an inn near the harbor and
mainly rested in between bouts of good brew.

Off again, across open sea, we eventually reached and
weaved our way amongst a goodly number of Greek
Islands. Then there was a cry from one of the sailors,
we were approaching Cape Sounio--the very far southern
tip of the Greek mainland. At the far edge of the cape
we could see the really, really old Temple of Poseidon.
Built centuries ago, somehow miraculously still standing,
but tottering in some places, the temple remained a
spectacular sight.

It had long been a welcome view to seafarers returning to
Greece. Poseidon was the Greek god of the sea. He also
was the god of earthquakes, thought to have raised the many
Greek islands. I thanked Poseidon for allowing me to safely
traverse all the seas over my many years traveling from one
post to another. Now Poseidon was beckoning us to a safe
harbor at the port of Piraeus, just south of Athens.

Finally I showed some small disobedience, in that I decided
not to take a mandated Navy ship back to Italy. Leaving
my big travel chests with a Navy officer, who would see
that they reached the Praetorian Camp in Rome, I headed
off towards Corinth. I decided to return via the Bay of Corinth,
across to Italy, up to Naples, and on to my family in Ostia.
This meant taking a commercial passenger ship, and
essentially following the old route I took years ago, when
a young student traveling with my tutor.

So remembering this, it was naturally appropriate to look-up
my good friend Quint. I found him at Corinth's Stoa, where
he was now a well-known philosopher. Though Qunt's pate
was now balding, I recognized him. As for me, though brown
from all of Judaea's sun, he instantly knew who I was. After
all the years in between, we seemed like old friends who had
never been separated.

Inviting me to his home, introducing me to his wife and
family, he invited me to stay with him. I spent a lovely week
overlooking the bay. It was a stroke of luck that I had found
him in Corinth, because he was making plans soon to move to
Carthage--a great city in the Province of Africa. It seemed that
the Stoa at Carthage was seeking to expand its teaching faculty.
Now a famed Stoic philosopher, Quint had been invited to join
the Carthage Stoa.

During the visit, I talked a little about what I might do after I
retired from the Praetorian Guard. After all the assignments, all
the traveling, I had less than a year left before my contract with
the Praetorians expired and I would be allowed a pension. So
what next? I had to consider that life didn't stop at that point,
but I was at loose ends as to what I might do during the rest of
my life.

It helped talking over these personal concerns with Quint. He
was a good, wise man who carefully advised me to look within
myself, focus on my natural inclinations and interests, and then
follow their course as they may take me. This seemed quite a
task ahead of me as I headed out towards Ostia and Rome.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Judaea (4)

Preparing to head out into the Negev Desert, hopefully this
would be the last time I will have to ride atop a camel. No
matter how many times I have been astride the beast, I have
never come to love him. Oh well, at least--thus far--he has
not yet bit me!

The camel has a web-like foot, hence he doesn't sink down
into the sand as much--even with his weight. Also, as is well
known, this creature can gulp down gallons of water at one
shot and then retain it for several weeks. The camel also has
special protective eye coverings, enabling it to work through
dusty air. And if there are sand storms, a reclining animal can
protect its rider. Enough said about my nemesis, the camel.
I give credit where credit is due.

Our camels took us through the desert safely, and at last we
reached Masada and Lake Asphalt. Some of the Fretensis
legionaries immediately wanted to take a quick dip into that
oily dead sea. They bobbled around like corks. It has been
said that it is nearly impossible to drown in that water. Maybe
so, but I decided against plunging-in. I did put my hand into
the lake's water, and indeed it was oily!

Looking back at nearby Masada, it seemed a sheer high
cliff. On the lake side, the mountain rose very high; but on
another side it sheered down to a much smaller height.
And it's here that the Fretensis Legion from times past, more
than fifty years ago, painstakingly built an attack rampart in
order to scale Masada and reach the top.

The legion, then, was pursuing the remnants of the Jewish
Zealots who had led the revolt that led to the destruction
of Jerusalem and the dispersion of many Jews from the land.
It took the legion nearly three years to build this huge ramp,
slowly piling up rock and earth along the lower side of Masada.
Once the legions reached the top, where the Zealots had
withstood attack for such a long time, they stood stock still
in shock. All the Zealots and their families were dead! It
was thought that they decided to kill one another, up to the
last man, rather than be captured by the Romans.

Now little more than a half-century later, here we stood once
again. It was deadly quiet. We managed to ride carefully
up the ramp. And by foot we even more carefully walked a
slim serpetine path up to the top. Once there, I looked out
on a flat terrace where Herod the Great's Palace once stood.
There were numerous water catch-basins. Yet I could not
figure how the Zealots managed to resist for such a long time.
The catch-basins might hold water, but in that hot region I
would not imagine indefinitely. As for food, surely this was
always in short supply.

Viewing all this, thinking about the tragedy at Masada, I felt
keenly the ghosts that must still wander in this place. Upon
my leave, in a quiet corner, I raised my arm in a strong Roman
salute--giving honor to an enemy of Rome, who nonetheless
were heroic in their determination to remain a free people!

Following Masada I bade farewell to the Province of Judaea.
As my ship pushed off from Caesarea, I left behind the "Land
of Ghosts" and headed for Rome.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Judaea (3)

Into my third year, accompanied by two guardsmen, I traveled
to Lake Kinneret . On duty we planned to make our way clear
up to the border of the Province of Syria. Though I had been
down to Jerusalem, into Judea, and also into Samaria, I hadn't
done much traveling across Galilee.

Riding alongside this great lake, I was struck by the beauty of
its shoreline. Whereas the middle part of Galilee was rocky,
here we found gentle rolling hills dipping down to the shore.
The flowers and trees just made this place simply gorgeous.
The mists over the lake, as well as the rising moon and stars
at night, made this reflective lake seem almost mystical.

But it proved to be a very long journey by horseback. When
we finally reached the city of Tiberias, our small party was
very much exhausted. Nearby was the town of Hamat, well
known for its hot mineral springs. I suggested we make a stop
and heal ourselves. My two guardsmen were delighted and
thought me to be a splendid fellow! Actually my forty-year-old
body was no longer as vigorous as it once was in my younger
days. I needed a break after so much time in the saddle.

While there I got into a conversation with some citizens from
Tiberias, an old city built almost a century back by Herod Antipas.
Much to my surprise, they told me that there still remained a
fair sized Jewish population in Tiberias. After the destruction
of Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin--the court of Jewish judges--had
fled to Tiberias. Now, years later, Tiberias had become a place
of religious learning for some Jews.

For a Speculator responsible for information-gathering, I
certainly was negligent in this case! Of course my interest in
various religious cults wasn't very significant to the Imperial
Service, unless it involved revolts. Still I was astounded about
some Jews still residing in Tiberias.

After the restful baths in Hamat, we rode on up near the Syria
border--and I happened upon the small fishing village of
Capernaum. I remembered from John's little book (that I bought
in Ephesus) that the Christus once made his home here. Again
I found a few Jews still living there, as their synagogue appeared
to be in active use. Asking around about Christus, no one seemed
to know much of anything about him.

It was somewhat sad, in that this great man--worshiped by others
as a god-man--seemed not to have made much of a mark in his own
home territory. Than again, he lived and taught there almost one
hundred years ago. The years roll by, centuries pass, and we humans
have a tendency to forget. As I left Capernaum I had to consider
that even here yet another ghost was walking in this land!

Months later my replacement arrived in Caesarea. At last I was
nearing the end of my assignment in Judaea. After familiarizing the
new senior officer, I had a trick up my sleeve. Before returning to
Rome, I had one last place I wanted to see--Masada! Taking some
furlough I joined a patrol of Fretensis legionaries heading over
into the desert towards Lake Asphalt. This was the only safe way
to travel in these regions. One could not travel alone, nor even with
my two usual guardsmen. This desert was oft full of unfriendly
nomadic tribes who would as soon kill you, before they looked
at you!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Judaea (2)

Having settled in, having traveled around the Judaea Province,
having made inquiries about this long ago Jewish Revolt, I came
to the conclusion that for most of my years I had been quite
naive about Roman Rule. My hero worship as a youngster, my
proud service in the Augusta Legion, even my sense of duty
in the Praetorian Guard somehow could not square with the
sad history of this poor "Land of Ghosts."

Most of the Jews are gone now. There's obviously an effort to
"Romanize" Judaea. But it will never be a total success in
this place. Whether the Jews earlier, whether the Arabian
people now, what has always underlied this particular province
is *poverty.*

Out in the villages, in the rural areas, we have an impoverished
people--not only in terms of a lack of wealth, but also a lack of
even the most rudimental forms of education. Most of these
people are only just eking out an existence. Yet they are
expected to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor. Everything is
seen from a particular perspective. In Ephesus where most
people are flourishing these taxes are affordable. They pay
for services and other amenities, such as good roads and
way-stations. In Judaea, the taxes present a considerable
burden on people who are really, really poor.

What I found interesting, also, was the considerable cultural
difference I have found in Judaea vis-a-vis the other provinces
where I have served. Italy, of course, along wiith Egypt and
Asia Minor, their populations display a similar culture--in this
case, Greco-Roman. In Judaea, the previous Jewish culture
proclaimed itself utterly different from our culture. We were
called "gentiles," and we were considered impure.

From what I could tell, there was diversity within the overall
Jewish culture. But what held it altogether was a "theocracy."
There were different religious groups, somehow tracing back
to different tribal connections. But by the time of the revolt,
the focus in Judaea was on the Temple in Jerusalem. The
Temple priests held the people in sway.

Learning all of this past history, I finally was able to understand
why the Christus was executed. He spoke for a greater freedom,
in that it was really about the individual's relationship with God,
beyond the rules and regulations of the Jewish theocracy. He
declared that he was the "fulfillment" of the Law (of Moses),
that he was the Way. Christus' message nearly totally conflicted
with the priests. And when he preached his words on the steps
of the Temple itself, when he attacked the coin exchange, well
that spelled his doom.

As for the Roman Governor, at that time, ordering his crucifixion,
well that still remains unclear for me. Perhaps he felt pressured
by the Temple priests, who were the "go between" with the Roman
government and the Jewish people. Crucifixion back then, too,
was employed only for a serious criminal act. What had the
Christus done that was criminal. Was it only talking against the
Temple priests, or even upsetting the coin exchange? Hardly,
from a Roman perspective! There had to be something else, at
least a hint of resistance against Rome.

Eventually I learned that there was a Jewish resistance group called
the Zealots whose total aim seemed to be driving the Romans out
of Judaea. Could Christus have been connected with this group?
I can only ask myself the question. As for the answer, we will
probably never know.

But what I do know, I have begun to form an opinion. It may not be
to our advantage to force tribal peoples, especially a theocracy,
to become a part of a Greco-Roman culture that at their point of
development seems anathema to them. As for their being a part
of the Roman Empire, that is a much more difficult situation. In the
end, it may not be as much about "expansion" as it is about "trade."

The Judaea Province is a gateway to Nabatea, now a part of the
Province of Arabia. Nabatea is important to the trade between
the Empire and India and China. *But,* Judaea is located on
the Mediterranean coast where the caravans carrying these goods
from Asia, through Nabatea, can be transferred onto ships that then
can deliver them wherever required throughout the Empire.

Judaea may be, has been, a difficult province, but it is a necessity!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Judaea (1)

Chapter Seven. JUDAEA

Yet another long sea journey to my new post. This time we
skimmed the coastline, made a supply stop at Tarsus, and at
last reached safe harbor at Caesarea Maritima--the capital
of the Province of Judaea. Tired, I looked out at what seemed
a dusty Imperial town. It had an old, but well protected harbor,
a theatre, the Governor's Palace, and other Greco-Roman
features in the midst of housing. At least it was on the
Mediterranean coast. The sea breezes would insure a
moderate climate.

I wasn't sure about the rest of the terrain in this Province. I was
told that it ranged from hilly to rocky to desert, and in much of
these territories we would be back astride those damned camels!

After settling in at the palace, I met the senior officer I was
replacing. He was as anxious to leave as I was not anxious
to arrive. But we had time together, enough for him to provide
me with a quick history of the place. I had heard things about
Judaea, but was never quite sure of the facts. The facts bared
a very sad story.

Nearly fifty years back there was a major Jewish revolt against
Rome. It was put down aggressively by legions led by both
the Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus, who later became
emperor. In the midst of this campaign Jerusalem was nearly
totally destroyed, at the cost of at least 600,000 Jewish lives.
This included not only men, but also women and children.
Now I understood the meaning of the "Land of Ghosts." All
those dead, destroyed brutally, surely must haunt the land.

But all this happened a long time ago. Though barely qualifying
as a city, Jerusalem--or at least some of its environs--is now
occupied by retired legionaries and Hellenistic peoples. And
the 10th Legion Fretensis is encamped in a surviving part of old

Following the destruction of Jerusalem, the destruction of the
Jewish Temple, most of the Jews still left alive scattered.
Some migrated to Alexandria in Egypt, and others traveled
to areas far and wide, even beyond the borders of the Empire.

My fellow officer continued this sad story. After Jerusalem was
burned to the ground, three years later a former palace of a
Tetrarch, Herod the Great, was destroyed--resulting in the suicide
of many other Jewish zealots. Out in the desert, near Lake Asphalt
(which is an oily, dead sea), this palace was atop a high mountain
called "Masada."

Now, in our own time, the Judaea Province consists of "Imperial
Cities" sparsely speckled across the map, such as Neapolis and
Sepphoris. There were still some urbanized, Greek-speaking
Jews living in these places; but, for the most part, in the smaller
towns, in the villages, out in the rural areas, this land now seems
mostly occupied by people of Arabian descent.

I began to feel as unsettled as this poor Province. But I had four
years to face in this place, so I figured that I might as well make
the best of it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Asia Minor (4)

Considered a great wonder, I occasionally visited the Temple of
the "Artemis Ephesus" whose statue featured a many-breasted
goddess. As I had earlier figured, she represented a fertility
goddess derived from Asian sources. What was interesting is
that Ephesus' Artemis represented a synchronistic effort to blend
the Greek Artemis of the Hunt, the Lady of the Moon, with an
Earth Mother of the East.

Such an effort reminded me of Serapis, where the Egyptian
god Osiris was blended with Apis--a bull deity--that slipped into
a Greek religious cult.

Pondering over my now bulging collection of notes about these
various religious cults that I have thus far encountered, studying
them from an investigative perspective, I still remain puzzled.
My family, most of my friends and acquaintances, have rarely
been caught-up in these religious expressions that are rampant
all over the Empire. It's not that I don't believe in an overall Deity,
the Creator of the World, it's just that I don't see the necessity
dressing the Deity in all these various ways in all these various

"Faith" calls, however it will. As to whether the Creator of the
World really stands behind all these various faith systems, I
cannot say. I am just as inclined to wonder whether all these
diverse expressions, rather, reflect our own human capacities
and development. It's easy to observe that we humans live
in different conditions, one from another, and our intelligence
and talents vary one from another. Maybe all these different
religious expressions represent all these tiered levels of who
we are, what we can feel and think at a given position on the
human pyramid.

The poor, not only physically but spiritually, have their needs.
Beyond poor, there's other kinds of needs--mainly, as I see it,
to have some trust in the world, in a Creator that provides us
with some sense of meaning in this life. As for myself, I put a
lot of credence in Fate and Providence. Nonetheless, somehow
I have come to understand the necessity to respect another's
religious or spiritual expression. Perhaps this pastime of mine,
which is slowly turning into a "study" is a sign of this respect?

But now I must turn all this aside for awhile. My replacement
has arrived, and I am entering the last few months of my
assignment in Asia Minor. The years pass-by quickly! And
newly arrived, I have received my new assignment to be the
Speculatore senior officer for the Judaea Province.

My Praetorian friends at the palace really got a good laugh
over this new assignment of mine. After plush assignments
in Capri, Egypt, and Asia Minor, I was heading for what was
deemed a nasty and difficult place. One guardsman who had
spent some time in Judaea said that it was a "Land of Ghosts."
Pressing him about what he meant, he just left me confused.
He said I would come to understand once I get there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Asia Minor (3)

When I was not engaged in my duties, nor busy learning the
extra responsibilities of a senior officer, I browsed around
Ephesus. Once again I began pursuing my pastime of looking
into the various religious cults come my way. One of the most
curious was the cult of Christus.

From what I could tell, this particular religious cult began in
Judaea and eventually spread into Asia Minor via teachings
presented in certain Jewish synagogues. Over time most Jews
turned against this movement, which was about a god-man who
died and came back to life. Evidently there was a split, and
most of the followers now living in Ephesus are not Jews.

I was able to discover some small buildings called "churches"
or "assemblies" where the followers of Christus would meet.
Much of the time they meet in their homes, coming together over
a ceremonial meal and wine. This is not unusual, since these
kind of rituals are occasionally employed by other religious
cults around the Empire.

Upon inquiry, I discovered that under the Emperor Nero, some
twenty years before my birth, there was a persecution of these
people. It seems he falsely blamed and executed Christus'
followers for the burning of Rome at that time--though it was
more likely that Nero, himself, ordered the foul deed. Later he
declared these people as a danger to the Empire.

As far as I could tell, many of these followers of Christus were
either slaves or freedmen or, at most, Plebians. Easy scapegoats,
so to speak, in that they were mostly powerless people from the
lower social orders. Still I wondered why they were so attracted
by this Christus. I was in luck, in that Ephesus turned out to be
one of the major centers for these people.

It wasn't easy getting to know any of the followers of Christus.
They were dubious of any Roman asking questions. And who
could blame them? Eventually I ran into a Greek bookseller
who had a copy of a scroll written by one of the leaders of this
Christus movement. I bought the copy , which I was told was
written originally maybe about the time I was born--or a little
later--by a man called John, who claimed to be a disciple of

Reading through this small book, John told his story about this
Jewish rabbi (or teacher). It was a poignant story, tragic too!
It seems that Christus, himself, was a peaceful man. A wise man,
a healer also. He mainly taught in rural areas of Galilee, now
part of the Judaea or Syria Palaestina Provinces? His message
was about caring for one's neighbor, doing good, living generously.
His earlier Jewish disciples considered him a Messiah for the Jews,
even the Son of God. During a Jewish festival he came down to
Jerusalem, and made the mistake of speaking against the Temple
priests and upsetting the coin exchange there.

From John's story, it was not clear what the nuances of Christus'
execution were. The Jewish priests hauled him before the Roman
Governor and demanded his death. Why ever this pro-counsel
gave in to their demands seemed unclear. Anyway, Christus was
crucified under Roman Law--in that it was said that he declared
himself a "King of the Jews." All in all, this seemed a barbarous
act against a kind and probably innocent man! After his death, his
followers claimed that he was resurrected and ascended to Heaven.