Part 10. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – A Filthy Task

SB - Copy

IMG_0004-001

A detachment of Praetorian Guards met Livius, Claudius and Claudius’ aides at the bridge over the Tiber and accompanied them through Rome to the emperor’s palace on the Palatine Hill.

As Livius was escorted up the palace steps, he glanced out at the yellow eyes of Rome by night, the flickering candles and oil fires, the thick shadows and the glow of torches illumining the obelisks and temples. He was home and he felt as excited as a small boy.

Claudius remained with him as the Praetorian Guards escorted them across the entry into the state room where slave girls and the patrician youth of the city drank and laughed together. But as Livius came in sight, the laughter ebbed and silence spread over the place like a shroud.

Cornelius, the chief of the Praetorians, came forward, and led Livius along along the corridors to Commodus’ private chambers.

This suite looked out on the palaestra. as though Commodus was truly happy as long as he was in sight of the gymnasium and his gladiators.

The spacious room was softly lit by oil lamps suspended on delicate clains from the ceilings and walls. Commodus looked lonely, a brooding figure in the shadowy chamber. Behind him on the cavernous walls were huge maps of all the Roman provinces.

Commodus did not look up, seeming not to notice that Livius and Cornelius had entered his presence. Cornelius glanced at the emperor, then at Livius. He withdrew, leaving Livius alone some distance from Commodus.

Commodus spoke in low tones, “Oh Livius. My friend – my brother! Why did you leave me?”

Commodus descended from the throne, moved slowly toward Livius. Livius hesitated only a second longer and than rushed to him. They embraced fiercely, then parted.IMG_0013-007

Livius, only now looking at his great friend, realized how much he had missed Commodus and all he represented. Gazing at Commodus, he found it hard to credit all the rumors and whispers Timonides had retailed to him at Ravenna.

“I am alone, Livius.” Commodus’ voice was odd, ready to break. “This is a fiercely lonely place I exist in, Livius. I try to lighten my terrible burdens with some pleasures– music, gladiators, excitements–and terrible talk starts about me. I imagine you have heard much of it–even as far away as Ravenna.”

Livius smiled. “I’ve heard whispers.”

Commodus sighed. “And I suppose you disapproved, too?”

“I didn’t believe everything I heard.”

“But you disapproved what you did believe?”

“It was not for me to approve. You are undoubted Caesar. You must become disheartened, tired–”

“Oh, I do, Livius, you’ll never know how tired I become. If it were not for my pleasures, I couldn’t endure it all…Still, I can see by your face that you don’t apporove.”

“You can’t see that, Commodus, for it is not there in my face. I have no right to censure you. You do not live as I would, but your tastes are not mine.”

“How I’ve missed you, Livius! Why can’t the world understand me as you do?”

Livius didn’t speak, and Commodus persisted. “What’s the mater, Livius, is it my fault the world does not understand?”

Livius shrugged.

“I need you here, Livius,. I am so alone. There is no one like you. No one I can trust. No one I can talk to, ask advice, speak my heart to. They all want something of me. I can never know what they’re thinking.” He smiled at Livius, great love showing in his face. “Only you, when you speak, I know it’s the truth–and for my good.”

“I have not wanted to be away, Commodus.” He spoke tensely. “I have been isolated. I have hear only rumors. What really has happened?”

Commodus’ face shadowed, tightening in helpless frustration. He spoke in a whisper. “Rebellion– the whole East has rebelled. Syria, Egypt.”

Livius shook his head, staggered. “Syria? Egypt? That is Virgilianus, Marcellus. It cannot be! They were soldiers with me. They were the most loyal.”

Commodus laughed in rage.

“They were loyal to my father. Now they are raising armies against me–against Rome.” he glared about him, eyes bitter. “They’re always hated me. Marcellus. Virgilianus. They’re waited all these years for the right moment.”

7326230286_f0358a9764_z

Livius turned away, prowling the huge room as though it were suddenly a breathless cage. He was deeply disturbed.

Commodus said, “Even Sohamus has joined them.” When Livius heeled around, scowling, Commodus peered into his face, studying it. “He forced Lucilla to flee with him.”

At the sound of Lucilla’s name, Livius felt something flare inside him and he winced as if an old wound that had lain dormant were suddenly ripped open, raw and bleeding.

Commodus stared into his face. “And there is more, Livius. More I haven’t told you. The rebellion is spreading in your name.”

“What?”

Livius looking squarely at Commodus, their gazes clashing. In the deep silence, the remove sounds of the palaestra filtered through the heavily curtained windows.

At last Livius said in a quiet, hard voice, “Rebellion cannot be made in my name, Commodus.”

“Yet they are using it that way. Your name has spread over the whole East–as the new Caesar.” His mouth taut, Commodus quoted, ” ‘Bring in the new Rome–the Rome of Livius Gaius Metellus.’ And now there are echoes of that same cry in the North and West. Do you say you have not even heard it?”

“I do say that, Commodus. I remain loyal to my country, my Caesar, my oath.” He prowled the carpeting, staring at the map of the provinces, the shadowed walls, the old lamps, the emperor waiting. He heeled around, mouth bitter. “Why did you recall me, Commodus?”

rareromanroom

“I wanted to hear from your own mouth that you loved me still, Livius.”

“You knew that.”

“The whispers are shouts, the rebellion is real, growing.”

“Why do you call on me, Commodus? Where is your Eastern Army?

There was a protracted silence. At last, as Livius waited tensely, Commodus gave a weary gesture of his hand. “Our Roman legionnaires have been so long in the East, they are no longer Roman.” His voice lowered, becoming almost inaudible. “The Eastern Army has gone over to the rebels.”

Livius retreated as if struck physically, staggered by this news. Commodus straightened, eyes bitter. “Why do I call on you, Livius? Because you are the only man the Northern Army will follow in battles against–other Roman legions.”

Livius stared at the emperor inn the thick silence. At least he said, “This is a filthy task you impose on me–to throw Roman against Roman.”

“It must be done. if the empire is to survive, it must be done. And even more, Livius. It will have to be as in the old days old punishing armies. Cities destroyed. Evey living thing killed. Before the rebellion spreads. Before our enemies attack. The whole world must know we have again become the Rome of old.”

Commodus waited, but Livius did not speak. Commodus lowered his voice to a wild, urgent whisper. “We are fighting for survival.”

Livius was shaken. “That Rome should have to fight for survival.”

“It’s true! I haven’t told you all. I–have to behead the chief of the Praetorian Guards and–give that head to the people of Rome to–to quiet them. We are in desperate trouble, Livius–everywhere. Even here at Rome. We must show them that we are strong, that we will destroy out own people if they oppose us.”

Livius barely heard him. “I’ve fought a dozen battles alongside of Virgilianus and Marcellus. They were my friends.”

Commodus swung his arm in a savage, cutting arc. “Friends? Jackals ready to destroy us. No. No. Destroy them! What other way is there?”

Livius stared at the emperor in the shadowed room, feeling his face ache with the ruts pulled into it. “What other way is there?” Neither spoke because there was no answer, they had said it all.

IMG_0014-007

Happy Lupercalia & “Fall of the Roman Empire” Magazine Photos

For Ancient Romans, today was a festival day celebrating Lupercalia! This was an ancient pagan ritual for cleansing the winter days and also to rejuvenate health and fertility in the land. After a religious sacrifice young Roman men would race naked, or nearly naked, around the Palantine Hill in Rome and strike young women in the crowd with leather thongs called februum (yes, February comes from this word!) in order to endow them with a health pregnancy, or (if not yet pregnant), grant them fertility, or so they believed. The word februa in Latin means “Purifications” or “Purgings”. So to honor the season before spring and to get the earth ready to be fruitful again, a fertility ritual like Lupercalia took place to welcome the season.

So, welcome Lupercalia!

Pictures below of “The Fall of the Roman Empire” taken from a French Magazine called Bonnes Soirées, April 1964. https://stephenboydblog.com/fall-of-the-roman-empire/

bonnessoireescoverBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (2) - CopyBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (3) - Copy - CopyBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (3) - CopyBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (4) - CopyBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (5) - Copy - CopyBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (5) - CopyBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (15) - CopyBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (6) - CopyBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (9) - CopyBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (10) - CopyBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (12) - CopyBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (13) - CopyBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (14) - CopyBonnesSoireesApril1964FOTRE (1)

Part 8. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – The Tigress and The Soldier

SB

SB.jpg

“You’re tired, Livius, “Timonides said. “You need rest more than violence. ” He smiled, “Even the violence of my little tigress.”

Livius didn’t look at Xenia again. He watched Timonides, puzzled. “Don’t you ever need anything, Greek? Aren’t you roused by animals like that?” He jerked his head toward Xenia, still without giving her a glance.

“I have my problems, “Timonides said. “The Greeks are a jealous, proud, race-conscious people. I am like that. I was like that. I learned a great deal from Marcus. I taught him much but I learned more from him. Resignation. Acceptance.”

“Lessons I’ll never learn.” Livius pressed his fingers hard against his eyes, seeing lights and prisms of color from the pressure. He stared a Timonides. “I’ve fought in battles for eleven years, and faced death many times. I have overcome much, many fears. Yet you seem more at peace, more certain of yourself than I am. Why?”

Xenia moved with the lithe grace of a lynx, soundless as a shadow. Timonides had grown accustomed to her presence, and Livius was too exhausted to care what she did. They were deeply absorbed and did not see her lunge suddenly, before Timonides could answer the imperium. She grabbed the sword. It whistled free of its scabbard, glinted in the yellow light as she sprang toward Livius.

The only sound Xenia made was the hissing inhalation as she threw up her arms to strike. It was enough, too much. Timonides swung around and thrust his arm in the same movement between Xenia and Livius.

Livius, roused by Timonides’ silent wheeling about, moved with the instinctive speed of a combat-trained soldier. He sprang upon Xenia, turning, and could only partially block the sword thrust.

Timonides bit his lip, face twisting in pain. The sword had laid open his upper arm. Blood spurted, spilling over his tunica.

Livius glanced at the slave, moved past him, reaching out with quick, deft movement, snatching the sword from Xenia.

In a fluid, continuous motion, he brought his other arm up, backhanding Xenia across the face and sending her sprawling.

Xenia struck a tent support, almost toppled around it, clutching at the wood for balance. Then she slid beyond it, moving into a shadowed corner, crushed, cringing, numb with physical shock as she watched Livius stalk toward her, blood-smeared sword red in his fist.

The fiery green passion of hatred died in her eyes and she slumped inward, watching dully for the death stroke.

Livius’ face was cold. He raised his sword over her.

From behind him, Timonides cried in anguish, “No! No!”

Clutching his blood-covered arm, Timonides ran to them. He caught Livius’ upraised arm. He shook his head, mouth gray. “I don’t want her punished, Livius.”

Sword still upraised, Livius stared at him incredulously. “But she tried to take your life. She’s wounded you. You must kill her.”

They both stared at the girl crouching numbly in the corner…

IMG_0021-007

Suddenly, Xenia slumped to the ground, sobbing.

Livius jerked his head around, staring at her in amazement.

From the ground the quivering girl whimpered, “I no longer want to be a warrior.”

Livius had already heard more than he could comprehend. He demanded grimly, “What is it you want to be?”

Xenia answered, but her voice was almost inaudible, as though all this were too new for her, feelings she didn’t understand and had no words for , and was almost ashamed of uttering. “A woman…I do not want to kill any more.”

Livius knelt, lifted her easily by her shoulders. He held her at eye level, inspecting her suspiciously. “Give up your arms and live in peace?”

Xenia avoided his eyes, mumbling. “I want—to live in one place – with one man – the way the Romans do.”

Timonides, tending his slashed arm, glanced up at this with a wry smile. “The way the Romans say they do–”

But Livius was staring at the girl. He lowered his slowly until she was back on the ground. His expression was a mixture – suspicion, disbelief and faint, replenishing hope.

rareromanlostscene

Stephen Boyd, a Rolls-Royce and a Chariot!

In early 1963 Stephen Boyd, a man who loved his automobiles, became the proud owner of a brand new Rolls-Royce, which apparently was delivered to him while he was filming “The Fall of the Roman Empire” in Spain. The two humorous anecdotes below about Boyd’s new car are from the Los Angeles Times.

IMG_0002-001 (2).jpg

“Chariot Race Champ Drives Rolls-Royce”

Feb 17, 1963  Los Angeles Times

Stephen Boyd has become the unchallenged modern chariot champion. Because of his work in “Ben-Hur” and the currently shooting “Fall of the Roman Empire,” Boyd qualifies as the Sterling Moss of the chariot set and the Donald Campbell of the Roman racers. “Five years ago I made ‘Ben-Hur’ and people still call me ‘Messala,'” the actor said. “It makes you wonder how far you can go in life without a chariot. I figure they have taken me farther than a conscientious Roman Red Arrow messenger.”  A Rolls-Royce owner off the set, Steve says chariots compare favorably to modern vehicles as far as safety is concerned. “The auto driver forgets he has a hundred times more horses in his hands than the charioteer, but he isn’t one-tenth as careful.”

wp-1485094729382.jpeg
Stephen Boyd shows off his chariot riding skills during the making of “The Fall of the Roman Empire” in early 1963 in Spain.

May 19, 1963  Los Angeles Times

Hardy passers-by braving a rugged location of Samuel Bronston’s “Fall of the Roman Empire” in the Guadarrama mountains of Spain, witnessed the arrival of a brand new Rolls-Royce from which alighted two royal Romans in full regalia and a man in a red snow suit. They were actors Stephen Boyd, owner of the car, Christopher Plummer and director Anthony Mann. En route, Boyd had extolled the virtues of his new auto, not even sparing that bit about hearing only the clock. As he and Plummer mounted their chariots, Mann growled to Boyd : “This AD 180, two horsepower, no stand-up top sports coupe is hardly as smooth running as your Rolls. But if you don’t give me a more exciting ride in it than you just did in that gold-plated hearse, I’ll let you lose this one too…just as you did in ‘Ben-Hur.'”

SNOWWThe-Fall-of-the-Roman-Empire-AFYM3B (5)
Boyd, Mann and Plummer in snow-bound Spain during the filming of “The Fall of The Roman Empire”

Fullscreen capture 192018 82637 PM.bmp

Obi Wan Kenobi and Emperor Marcus Aurelius!

Yes, I am going to incorporate Star Wars in my Stephen Boyd Blog! Why? Because Stephen got to act with the inimitable Alec Guinness in “The Fall of the Roman Empire” in 1964. Since Alec’s portrayal of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius in this movie as a emperor-philosopher has so many similarities to his later portrayal as the wise and noble Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars,  I think it’s only fitting to mention this with the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”!

“In popular culture Marcus Aurelius can even be a future source. If only in disguise. In the original trilogy of his Star Wars films (1977-1983) George Lucas presents us with a wise teacher and warrior who bears an uncanny resemblance in appearance and function to the Roman emperor. Our first glimpse of Marcus in The Fall of the Roman Empire shows him wearing a cloak whose hood covers his head, the appropriate way to conduct a sacrifice. Luca’s Obi-Wan Kenobi is usually dressed in a similar way. That both Marcus and Obi-Wan are played by the same actor only clinches the case. O be one with Marcus, noble Jedi knight!’  (Martin M. Winkler, The Fall of the Roman Empire, Film and History)

Just another reason one of the many reasons I love “The Fall of the Roman Empire”… A Star Wars connection!

May the Force be with you all!!

SB-001FOTRE (2)IMG_0005 (7)

Part 3. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – A Barbarian Who Thinks

SB

rareroman09098

“You’ve been too much at Rome, Commodus. You— should be more with your father.”

Commodus roared. “Will you tell me how I must live? Must I try to live as you do? Like a pupil, drinking in every word of my illustrious father’s? Live you do!” His voice was hoarse. “Oh, I’ve heard all the rumors. Why Father has gathered everyone here…Why you were at his side.” His voice broke suddenly, his mouth twisting. He shook his head. “No…No, Livius, don’t let it come from you….I need you as my friend. Don’t tell me any more…I don’t want to hear it.”

In the pregnant silence, Livius sighed, deeply moved. “I am your friend, Commodus.”

Commodus stared at him, his mouth pulled petulantly, for a long time. Suddenly then, he shook off his thoughts and heeled around, staring at Xenia.

“Ah, Princess,” he said. “You boast that you are a nation of warriors…Well, then, warrior, every solider knows that sometimes his side loses–and he becomes part of the spoils of war –even a princess becomes a slave. to be used as the master wishes.” When she did not move, he shouted at her. “Do you hear me? You are lost. You are prisoners of war.” He stood up. “Come here to me.”

Xenia did not move. There was no way to tell from her expressionless face even if she heard him at all. His voice rose. “Come! Drink with me. You may as well accept that you are lost. You may as well relax.” He laughed. “You may as well enjoy it. Wine will help you put a brighter edge on everything–Drink!”

rarero,am;enavomnmartens4

When the slender young girl still did not move, he went around the table to her.

He knelt, offered the beaker of wine, but she turned her head away, stiffly.

Commodus caught her head in his hand, tried to pour the wine down her mouth. It ran trickling across her lips, filling her nostrils, discoloring her cheeks.

Suddenly, gasping, she struck at him savagely, spilling the beaker of wine all over him.

Commodus yelled at her, like a child in a tantrum. “I am sill Caesar’s son! Do you understand? I could have you burned alive.”

Commodus slapped at the droplets of wine splattered upon his clothing. His eyes were wild, fixed on her, his mind churning with the indignities that would degrade her, show her the depths a woman could reach when she fought him.

Suddenly he realized that Livius was watching him silently, shocked by his lack of self-control.

Commodus, trembling, managed to get hold of his emotions. He moved to gaze over Xenia’s body and then turned slowly to face Livius.

His voice was casual. “I don’t want this one after all, Livius. I thought I did. She rouses me more to rage than to passion and–that doesn’t fit my mood tonight.” He jerked his head toward Tauna. “I’ll trade you – even before I’ve used the princess at all…This little blonde animal quivering like a frightened animal is more for me.”

Livius nodded. “Take Tauna then, Commodus. She’s yours.”

Commodus stared at Livius another moment. Then he walked to Tauna and grabbed her. She bit her lip, but did not cry out. She was quivering and kept her eyes closed. Pleased, Commodus knelt, swung her easily up into his arms and strode out of the room into his quarters.

IMG_0015.jpg

Livius was shaken. It was as if Commodus were full of hatred and his only satisfaction came from venting it upon the helpless.

Livius took a long drink of wine, but it was tasteless, less than water. He was troubled, wondering if he would remain cold, and beyond the touch of wine for the rest of his life.

Xenia stirred slightly across the table and, remembering her, he turned, looking at her. he said gently, almost teasing. “Is it true, girl, as Commodus fears – that you think?”

She got slowly to her feet, came around the table to him, knelt between his knees, mouth parted, looking up, pale, as if waiting.

Livius did not touch her. He drew his tongue across his dry mouth, seeing the way she trembled before him, waiting, and he remembered this morning when Marcus planned with Lucilla to give her in a marriage-alliance to Sohamus of Armenia. The only woman he had ever loved; he had feared all his life that he would never marry her, now his fear was grounded, and he would not.  What else mattered? Perhaps Commodus was partly right. If only he could hear the gods laughing as Commodus did. Perhaps this girl’s kiss might waken him, and make him forget for a little while.

Throat taut, he lifted his hands, cupped them over Xenia’s ears. He turned her pallid face up, holding her with more force than he realized, but she did not protest.

“A warrior who thinks?” he said. “You’re a fool–that’s what you are–just as I am a fool to forget I’m only a solider, and trying to think. What will it get us? Where?”  He shook his head. “But I will not threaten to burn you alive–just for your crime of thinking.” His mouth twisted. “I will offer you a more generous treaty of peace. A treaty of peace. Rome and the barbarian who thinks.” His hands tightened on her head. Her eyes searched his face, shadowed, in fear and misunderstanding. Cruelty she could understand, the force of his hands, the use of her body, all this she understood–but the tone and quality of his voice troubled and frightened her. She drew her tongue across her parted mouth, trying to move closer to him, waiting.

Suddenly Livius got to his feet. Xenia fell back, eyes wide. Livius stepped over her and walked past the guard, going out of the tent. Xenia stared after him, bewildered and chilled.

IMG_0018.jpg