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/

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

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“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…

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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.

 

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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.

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“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.”

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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.'”

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

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Part 7. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington- Taming the Princess 

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On the farthest reaches of the Danube frontier, the Roman legions found themselves filled with a despair, which for the first time in twelve centuries came from within. They had been cold before, faced overwhelming odds, gone farther from home, met defeat, but for the first time they huddled in the desolate marshes into which their pursuit of the Macromanni had led them, feeing cut off from hope, depressed and dispirited because whisper had it Commodus Emperor was ending support of the north campaign.

No man liked to enter such a swamp of desolation, but disciplined fighters went where the battle was. Never before had they faced the probability of abandonment by Rome.

There was no warmth in this chilled land. The marsh was wild, infested with death and unseen terrors, all of it blanketed with low-lying fog.

Behind the soldiers in a picketed prison pit, the captive barbarian women and children huddled together against the cold.

Livius moved past the prisoners, gazing at his soldiers but not speaking to them.  He went through the dank encampment, sharing the loneliness of his legions, but haunted  by something he had lost that most of them had never known.

A light glimmered from a tent ahead of him in the fog. He walked toward it without any sense of anticipation.

Through the slit of the tent-flap, Livius saw Timonides and the barbarian princess Xenia. Timonides was reading by the inadequate flickering of a swinging oil lamp. Before the Greek teacher, Xenia sat rigidly.  Her eyes glittered with sullen hatred. Holding a wax tablet and a stylus clumsily, she watched Timonides intently, trying to gather some gleam of sense from all he was teaching her.

When Livius entered the tent, Xenia’s eyes darkened. The look of hatred in them became even more intense. Livius saw that glitter impaling him, but ignored it.

When Timonides saw it was Livius, he put away the document from which he was reading. Sighing with relief, Xenia instantly dropped stylus and tablet.

Timonides stood up, a warm smile lighting his dark face. “I am teaching the princess how to read and write.”

Livius nodded, glancing at Xenia with a look of curiosity. She averted her gaze.

“I am teaching her Greek,” Timonides said with a smile. “That is my way of trying to make a Roman out of her.”

Livius exhaled in weariness. “A Roman out of her?” He paced morosely, both of them watching him. “This is a war without end–no matter what they say in Rome. You think you have Ballomar beaten, he disappears only to come back stronger than ever.” He heeled around, face gray with rage, his dark eyes fixed on the savage princess. “What sort of people are you, Xenia? You have no homes, no families. You live on horses.”

Xenia straightened on the ground. Her voice was tinged with contempt. “We are warriors–”

“Warriors?” Suddenly Livius stride over to her, grabbed her. He pulled her to her feet before she could struggle at all. “Don’t you ever yearn for a man?” He held her savagely against him, his face gray and taut, and no sign of pleasure in his eyes, his mouth a rash of rage. “To be held like this? To be loved?”

For a moment, breathless, Xenia pressed against him, her heart hammering, her untamed emotions violently and quickly roused.

Her fingers dug into his arms, she clung to him. But this lasted less than the space of a harried breath. In that time she was flooded with raging memories. She remembered the way she had gone on her knees to him, waiting for him to act the victor claiming his rights over a female prisoner. This was the treatment she understood, and even when she fought him–if she opposed him that night in that tent at Vindobona–she would not have hated him because there was no man even among her father’s people to match this splendid man. Her opposition would have been half-hearted, but her passions would have been of a violence he would never know in the effete cities of the South. She had offered herself, even if he were her hated enemy. Nothing could ever erase the memory of the strange treatment he’d shown her, acting as if she were not only unlovely, but not a woman at all.

Defiantly, she writhed free, hurtling her words and her hatred at him. “No! No.”

Livius stepped toward her. He saw Timonides watching them, but Timonides would not attempt to deter him, no one could stop him if he meant to take her. A man needed a woman, worse than ever in this desolate place, even a barbarian like this one.

Suddenly he spoke somewhat more gently. “Then what do you live for? Even warriors must yearn for peace?”

Xenia crouched defiantly, voice shrill. “Peace is for pigs. We live for victory.”

Livius pushed her away from him roughly. The sudden fire that had flared to instant life was even more abruptly quenched. He didn’t want her. He didn’t want any woman. It was a hellish truth he had learned, when you feel rage toward the only woman you could love, you hated all women with that same fierce intensity.

He needed something, but it wasn’t this half-wild creature. He drew the back of his hand across his forehead, for that instant almost overcome with dizzying weariness. His clothing was intolerable, the weight of his flat, short sword unbearable. With a tired movement, he removed the sword, place it on the table without even glancing at it.

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Part 6. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – Venus and Mars

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“I’d chose your love…If that makes me finally less than what your father believed me…then I am not fit to rule an empire…Without you, it would be nothing….I am empty and lost, and incomplete without you. I am chilled with cold when you pull away from me here.” He kissed her eyes, pressing his face into the luxurious texture of her faintly scented hair. “Only this is real.” He whispered against her mouth. “For the sake of all gods, let us be wise enough to know that.” His lips moved over her face, and her eyes, along the chiseled line of her jaw to her throat. “All else is half-life–emptiness…not living at all. Only loving you is real–”

Lucilla whimpered, a sound of anguish, no longer afraid of him at all, but filled with dread at the storm he had loosed to rage in her mind and her heart.

“That–is only my body…”She shivered visibly, trying to control herself by quoting her Stoic father. “But I am more than that. I can reason, I can rise above that.”

Livius kissed her with brutal hunger. “There is nothing above this. When the gods bring two people together like this–there is nothing above it for mortals…and not even the gods can help those who throw it away…for anything.”

Lucilla broke away from him, moved distracted  across the storm-lit platform, pressed against the farthest support.

She did not speak to him, but to the storm-clogged dark. “No. Not true. Not true. I cannot rise above this…I don’t want to….I don’t want to reason…I want to love him whom I have always loved–him only…” Thunder reverberated from the earth, rattled against the roof of the sky. “I won’t listen! I won’t hear other voices! I no longer hear any voice but his!” She tilted her head, her hair wild, her eyes fixed defiantly on infinite sky. She shouted her defiance, exultant. “Do you hear me, gods? I love Livius. Do you hear me, world? I love Livius.” Her voice lowered fervently.  “I’ll pray to Venus. Of all the gods, she’ll understand. She loved the god of war, didn’t she, Livius? And not even the ridicule of the world when she was hung in a net in his arms could change that–she’ll understand my love…I’ll bring sacrifices to her shrine. Venus will help us…The goddess is close to me. She’s always been because I’ve loved you so deeply, so sincerely, so forever…Venus loves me because I love you above all else. She loves me and she won’t let me lose you…”

She stopped abruptly, covering her face, sobbing into her hands.

Livius came to her, took her in his arms. Exhausted, she rested her head against his chest.

Her voice was lower, but she spoke with hope, as if purged from old doubting. “And in the morning, I’ll speak to Father. First above all he loves me—he’ll release me from my pledge–” She pressed closer, whispering, “Hold me, Livius, don’t ever let me doubt, don’t ever let me be afraid again.”

Lightning erupted in a violent streak, ripping the blackness from one horizon to another, but they didn’t hear it; they pressed closer and closer in the blinding whiteness.

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