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|© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2017|
And so Marcus waited, through the night, in the slave pen, on the island of Crete.
The closest parallels to enslavement in warfare were capture by pirates and brigands – defacto equivalent to standard military practice - but lacking public sanction.However, that explanation would have been of little interest to Marcus.
Many slaves were provided to the slave-trade by eastern Mediterranean ‘pirates’ in the second and early first centuries BC, and there are many indications that communities based in Cilicia and Pamphylia, as well as Crete that had gained autonomy from the erosion of the great Hellenistic powers engaged in increasingly wide-ranging raiding ventures, that presumably entailed a considerable amount of slave-making.
Significantly, it is possible to interpret the later, spasmodic character of Roman countermeasures, as a sign of tacit collusion between sellers and buyers.
Rome certainly needed slaves at the end of the Republic, and after the death of Augustus, and were not always fussy about the sources of such slaves.
Stripped down to his loincloth, he spent his first night on Crete, with the boy dance troupe, in a slave pen, awaiting his fate.
The pirates who had captured Marcus were concerned to keep a low profile with the Roman authorities, particularly as, during this raid they had killed two Roman citizens - Marcus' father and mother.
They were not sure if Marcus was also a Roman citizen, or a slave-boy belonging to Gaius Aelius.
The fact that the boy spoke Latin with a Greek accent inclined them to believe that he was a reasonably well educated Greek slave-boy.
It was noticed, once they had arrived in Crete, that Marcus was wearing a bulla, but the pirates were not sure of its significance, and presumed that as the boy was probably a slave, that it had been a gift from his master.
They were going to take it from him - as it looked as if it might have been made of gold, but in all the confusion of getting the boys into the slave pens, it was forgotten.
The haste and lack of attention was undoubtedly because they were keen to be rid of Marcus, the boy dancers, and the Armenian prisoners of war, and were therefore prepared to quickly sell them on, without too much quibbling about the price to a local slave-trader.
While Marcus and his companions waited in the slave-pen, the leader of the pirates struck a deal with a young Greek slave-trader, over wine in a local hostelry.
As fate would have it, the boat was bound for Brundisium, which had been the original destination of the family of Gaius Aelius and his wife and son.
Brundisium was an Ancient Greek settlement predating the Roman expansion. The Latin name Brundisium comes from the Greek Brentesion (Βρεντήσιον) meaning "deer's head", which refers to the shape of the natural harbor. In 267 BC (245 BC, according to other sources) it was conquered by the Romans. Herodotus spoke of the Mycenaean origin for these populations. The necropolis of Tor Pisana (south of the old town of Brundisium) returned Corinthian jars in the first half of the 7th century BC. The Brindisi Messapia certainly entertained strong business relationships with the opposite side of the Adriatic and the Greek populations of the Aegean Sea, including, of course, Crete.The journey by sea was relatively safe, as the ship could stay reasonably close to the coast, but somewhat ironically, there was always the chance of meeting up with pirates again.
After the Punic Wars it became a major center of Roman naval power and maritime trade. In the Social War it received Roman citizenship, and was made a free port by Sulla. It suffered, however, from a siege conducted by Caesar in 49 BC (Bell. Civ. i.) and was again attacked in 42 and 40 BC.
The poet Pacuvius was born here about 220 BC, and here the famous poet Virgil died in 19 BC. Under the Romans, Brundisium – a large city in its day with some 100,000 inhabitants – was an active port, the chief point of embarkation for Greece and the East, via Dyrrachium or Corcyra. It was connected with Rome by the Via Appia. The termination of the Via Appia, at the water's edge, was flanked by two fine pillars.
As it happened, the voyage was uneventful, and they soon weighed anchor at Brundisium.
The slave trader who had agreed to buy the boy slaves, and Marcus, was a relatively young Greek called Arion.
Despite his youth he was experienced and knowledgeable with regard to his trade, and over a number of years had built up a sizeable fortune by confining himself to the top end of the market, where profits could, if one was clever and lucky, be enormous.
The price of slaves varied greatly.Handsome, educated boys, like Marcus, and beautiful, accomplished girls could cost huge sums, sometimes being worth literally their weight in gold.
Captives sold by Roman generals did not cost much, because generals were eager for quick sales and, on the trip back to Rome, dealers were liable to heavy losses from disease, fatigue and especially suicide.
Some slaves, however, fetched huge prices.
Arion had seen a good return from the young boys dancers - Greeks from about 10 to 14 years old, all healthy, apparently well-trained, and good-looking.
He had not taken the boy's trainer, who was still languishing in Crete as, whoever bought the boys would either want to train them himself, or provide them with a trainer of his choice.
Marcus, however, intrigued him - as he would do many others
Arion did not believe for a moment that the boy was actually called Marcus, or was a Roman citizen.
He saw that as a rather ridiculous ploy by the boy to avoid enslavement.
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2017
Arion could only conclude that Marcus had stolen it - maybe before the voyage, or possibly on board ship.
If Marcus had stolen the charm from another boy on the ship - a boy who would have obviously been a Roman citizen (only Roman boys wore a bulla), then Arion wondered what had become of that boy.
The obvious solution to the puzzle was that Marcus had assumed the other boy's Roman name, and probably disposed of the lad overboard, when the pirates attacked.
Arion thought it was a clever ploy to obtain freedom, but it alerted him to the fact that Marcus was probably not only a smart, devious boy, but also a potentially dangerous boy.
So this devious boy, as far as Arion, and everyone else from then on was concerned, became 'Markos' - which was the Greek version of his name - or perhaps his new owner would take to calling him Ares - as the name Marcus was related to 'Mars', the Roman God of War, and therefore to Ares, the Greek War God.
A slaves' name, however, belonged to his master, and a master could give his slaves whatever name he desired.
The boy, however, spoke fluent Greek, and even spoke Latin with a strong Greek accent.
In addition, however, 'Markos' (as he was to be known), showed that he could not only read Greek and Latin, but could also write in both languages.
This was not only unusual, but such skills, particularly in one so young, were very much in demand.
Arion spent a whole evening talking to 'Markos' (as he called Marcus), trying to tease out the truth - about where the lad came from, and his true identity - and the fact that they conversed in Koiné Greek (not a form of Greek that Roman citizens - even boys - would be familiar with), did not help Markos as he attempted to convince Arion that he was, in reality, a Roman citizen.
Hellenistic Koiné, ('Hellenistic supra-regional language'), was the common form of Greek spoken and written during Hellenistic and Roman antiquity. It evolved from the spread of Greek following the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, and served as the 'lingua franca' of much of the Mediterranean region, and the Middle East, during the following centuries. It was based mainly on Attic and related Ionic speech forms, with various admixtures brought about through dialect levelling with other varieties.It was obvious that the boy came from Athens, but the story of his father being a Roman official, and his claim to be a Roman citizen seemed a clever fantasy.
Before their talk Arion had Markos 'cleaned up', as the voyage, and the time in the slave pens, had left him looking dishevelled and dirty.
After bathing and a massage, Markos was brought to Arion's study.
All the while, one of Arion's slave was assiduously writing down, in Greek, everything that Markos said.
The exercise in the gymnasion, Arion thought, obviously accounted for the lad's fine musculature - unusual in a boy so young, and his confident posture, even when completely nude.
After a long interview, during which Markos had been given some bread, grapes and cheese, seasoned with garum, along with some wine, diluted with water.
It was the first proper meal that Markos had had in many days.
At the end of the interview Markos was dismissed, and escorted to a small, locked dormitory, where he found the other boys - the dancing troupe, all fast asleep.
It was only then that the grief and shock of the last few days overcame him, and he lay and sobbed quietly of his bed.
But at least he had a bed - his previous nights had either been on the deck of a galley, or the hard floor of a slave pen.
Arion was obviously being careful with his valuable merchandise, and in the morning that was made even more obvious, as the boys and Markos breakfasted on olives, bread and cheese, and then were subjected to a long bath, followed by a manicure of finger and toe nails, followed by a haircut and a massage.
By then it was lunch time, and after a light lunch the boys, and Markos, were taken to the large hall reserved for the slave auctions.
At one end of the hall, where they entered through ornate double doors, there was a large dais, separated from the rest of the hall by a low marble balustrade.
On this dais was a desk, where the records were made of the sales.
The remainder of the hall was taken up by a number of seats, at the back of the hall, and a large open space in front of the dais.
A tax was imposed on imported slaves, such as Markos and the dancing boys, who were offered for sale with their feet whitened with chalk, (to indicate that they came from beyond Italia).
A slave was offered for sale, usually with a scroll around his neck, describing his character, on which was written the slave's name and nationality, and a statement saying that he was free from disease (especially epilepsy), and from a tendency to steal, run away, or commit suicide.Slaves of unusual value (especially those of remarkable beauty) were sometimes offered at 'private' sales to probable buyers - and this is what had been organised for Markos, and the other boys.
If the slave had defects not shown in his guarantee, the dealer had to take him back in six months, or make good the buyer's loss.
A slave with no guarantee was made to wear a cap at the auction.
It was likely, of course, that Markos would be acquired to serve as a 'Puer Delicatus' (beautiful boy) - as he appeared to be still young enough to be classified as such, however, unlike most 'beautiful boys', who were often skilled in providing their master with various sexual pleasures, Markos had the added advantage - even if he might be sexually inexperienced, - of being able to speak, read and write Latin and Greek, and appeared to be very well educated.
He could therefore provide not only 'beauty' and sex, but also companionship and conversation - a rare combination - and all this would be made clear to the potential buyers at the upcoming auction.
Once the potential buyers had assembled, and had been served wine and delicacies, the large double doors at the back of the dais opened, and the auctioneer entered - not Arion, of course, - although young, he was rather too exalted to get involved in the actual selling.
|Markos is Sold|
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
All were naked, but were not wearing the usual scroll round their necks - which Arion always thought broke up the fine lines of a beautiful slave's form - and instead the buyers had each been given a scroll with full details of all the various slave on sale.
Strangely, Arion had not removed Maros' bulla (perhaps he was still wondering if Markos' story may have had an element of truth entwined in the boy's unlikely tale.)
To begin the sale the auctioneer then read these details to the assembled buyers, so that no one could subsequently claim to be unacquainted with all the information regarding the 'merchandise'.
Markos was then brought forward.
There was a distinct murmuring among the buyers as they rose from their seats, and pushed forwards for a better view, for rarely had they seen such an attractive lad - and in addition they had been informed that he read and spoke Greek and Latin, was an athlete, and had also received a classical education.
Soon the bidding began, and it gradually became quite frantic, as some of the potential buyers had set their heart on acquiring the handsome youngster.
Then, quite unexpectedly a youngish man, wearing a fine, dark red tunic, emblazoned with an elaborate emblem worked in gold bullion, at the back of the agitated group of bidders, made a single bid.
Immediately the room fell silent.
The bid was of such an amount that no other person in the room could possibly conceive of equalling, or exceeding it - or even approaching it, for that matter.
The auctioneer himself was startled by the bid, and simply muttered 'sold', as two of Arion's slaves led Markos away through the ornate double doors, and back to Arion's study.
Of course Markos was none the wiser.
He had no idea of how much a slave would cost, so what had just happened had little effect on him.
'and the story continues - as young Marcus is taken by the mystery bidder by carriage from Brudisium, across Italy, to Baiae, where he is taken into one of the opulent and sumptuous villas of his new, and as yet unnamed master ........
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
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TEXT - © Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016