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.