Part 9. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – The Barbarians in Ravenna

This series of blogs is specifically lifting portions of “The Fall of the Roman Empire” novelization which did not appear in the film production, mostly focused on Livius’ relationship with a German Princess, played by Lena Von Martens, and the fictional settlement of Germans (Macromanni) in and around Ravenna. The scenes were filmed, but they didn’t make the final cut. I hope someday to see a new DVD release which features them! In the meantime…

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When Livius strode into the market place, the Italians glanced up from filling jugs or drinking at the fountain. The blond savages turned away from the displayed wares in the stores, standing as if awaiting sudden doom as Livius approached. It has been an interminable time, but the Marcomanni believed no more in good now than they had on the day they entered Ravenna.

Livius slowed, feeling tired. He was aware of Xenia and Timonides close behind him, almost as if they were his bodyguard, ready to die for him, but not ready to allow him a moment of freedom, a full breath of air.

He glanced at Xenia from the corner of his eye. She no longer looked like a child though she was still a young girl. She had the look now of a woman, and he winced, knowing he’d given her that, driven into her arms, trying to find a forgetfulness that always eluded him. He never forgot anything, not even when Xenia screamed and in her anguished pleasure.

He drew his hand across his face, sweated. It was a failure, all of it.

Timonides gestured toward the market place where the crowds of blond and dark people were stirred together, yet obviously in now way integrated. He spoke hopefully, “See how well they live together, General. Blond and dark people–”

Livius was silent, grimly surveying the peaceful scene, a peace entirely of the surface, boiling underneath, ready to erupt.

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“Oh, Great Livius! Oh, Great Livius!”

Livius went tense at the cry of a young female voice. A blonde child, not yet twelve, hurled herself from a crowd of the barbarians, ran across the stones and clutched her arms about his hips, pressing her face against his body, kissing him.

“Oh, I’ve looked for you every day, ” she cried, tears streaming down her cheeks, “May I come and live with you now? Will you make me your own slave, until I am old enough for you to marry? I’ll be as no woman ever was for you. My whole life will be yours.”

Frowning, Livius lifted the child in his arms, holding her out at eye level, studying her. “Who are you?”

“Don’t you remember, Livius?” Timonides said when the child wept inconsolably. “She is Griselda, the child you saved from a javelin–”

“But you were only a baby!” Livius said, holding her in his arms until her sobbing ceased. “How you’ve grown.”

“Children grow fast,” Xenia said.

“And I will grow much faster now,” the little girl said, talking brightly into Livius’ face, stroking his cheek. “In this wonderful place you have brought us, I’ll soon be grown, and I’ll be lovely- and you will want me.”

“I’ll never be worthy of your loveliness,” Livius told her, smiling. “Are you happy here?”

“Oh, yes. It is heaven here. We have everything, and I remember when we had nothing, only cold and misery all the time. I worship you, sire. Not only for saving my life–but for all you have done for all of us.”

Livius, his eyes burning, kissed the girl’s cheek and set her on the pavement. “You run along and play and grow. Don’t ever speak of being anyone’s slave–except the man you love–”

“It is you I love,” she said. “I’ll never love anyone else.”

“Then you be happy,” Livius said, “For I love you.” When she was gone, he smiled for the first time in months. “A child. Of course it’s easier for her to adjust than for her parents. But maybe it will work, after all.”

“It is working,” Timonides said. “The parents will learn civilization, and the childen will forget they ever lived otherwise.”

Pleased, Livius gave Xenia and Timonides a brisk nod of approval as though they were responsible for peace and order in Ravenna, as though this whole experiment were somehow particularly theirs.

He turned and strode away from them, anxious to find new signs of the slow spread of success.

Xenia did not move. Her face was shadowed. Timonides laughed at her. “Do not be jealous, Xenia. It doesn’t become a princess….Besides, it was only a child he kissed.”

“A child today, “Xenia said, “Yesterday she was a baby.”

“Do not be jealous–”

“I cannot help that I am jealous. You are my teacher. You insist upon teaching me the ways of the Greek. The proud and jealous Greeks–”

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