Time on My Hands Chapter 20 - 217-222 CE: Sucked In, Chewed Up and Spit Out

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Time on MY Hands
Chapter 20: 217-222 CE: Sucked In, Chewed Up and Spit Out

Since it was impossible to move existing buildings on the plateau, the first action would be to build replacements on the slopes for those. The first job would be to build homes for themselves, then the replacements would be done. The buildings would be cut into the slopes with a mostly earth enclosed basement, a partially enclosed 1st floor and an exposed 2nd floor. All three floors would have a ground level entrance. The earth covered portions would be built from stone utilizing the excavating rock where possible. The remaining excavated rock would be used to create terraces on the sides. In addition, one large plot was set aside for a large building with the intention to build a library and offices for a Barmaz location of Corvus Scriptorium. Raben had intentions of terracing much of the valley to create more farmable land as well as pasture or tree terracing in the areas currently impossible to use. During downtime, each farmstead was given areas to work on since large scale terracing was a generational project.

Raben wanted sturdy stone single arch bridges built across all streams. The side bases of the bridge were to start 10 feet below the streambed to prevent them from being washed out. At each bridge the stream itself was to be channelized with sturdy deep foundation based walls 40 feet upstream to 20 feet downstream to insure the stability of the span. The decks were to be 30 feet wide with side walls 3 feet by 3 feet extending 10 feet beyond the spanned stream. At suitable locations similar bridges were to be built across the Vieze or similar streams to connect the two sides.

Raben made weekly trips to Forum Claudii Vallensium to keep abreast of the news on the change in Emperor and the resultant shuffling of power. The new emperor was swept up in settling the mess Caracalla left and was unable to make it to Rome. When Raben returned to Rome in October the city was roiling with plots and counterplots. It took a lot of maneuvering to stay out of the plots without alienating the plotters. Raben purchased twenty slaves assigning them to Corvus Construction to learn the basics of demolition and construction.

Wisely, or at least at the time he thought it was wisely, he didn’t stay in Rome but sailed for Alexandria and Zamrab in December. Six weeks after arriving he received a summons from Julia Measa, Caracalla’s maternal aunt and sister of Julia Domna, Emperor Severus’ late wife. She had married into a family that held hereditary rights to the priesthood of the sun god Elagabal, of whom her teenage grandson was the high priest at Emesa (modern Homs) in Roman Syria. She and her family had been forbidden to leave by Emperor Macrinus to prevent the boy from becoming a rallying point for rebellion. What made Raben reluctantly accept the ‘invatation’ was while the sealed private letter was addressed to Raben it wanted Fiach to answer the summons. Obviously she had figured out Raben was dual natured and that he and Fiach were one and the same. The threat of exposure was unspoken but plain. As he finished up Zamrab’s business he wrote to Mazbar and Barmaz explaining his situation and giving both instructions as to how they were to proceed with business operations until he was able to return.

At the end of April he wanted the twenty slaves who had been training with Corvus Construction sent to Barmaz where they would join the masons. Raben knew he’d have to build walls on the boundaries of the Barmaz Estate. The first place would be in the valley of the Drance de Abondance below the peak of La Pointe d’Autigny [GM 46.301863, 6.702782 at 1808 meters] and the unnamed peak to the west [GM 46.306379, 6.657469 at 1510 meters]. This was another access point into the estate from the Drance River which emptied into Lac Leman near Thonon-les-Bains. A sturdy wall was began with an easily defendable gate on the narrow north side of the stream. The western wall climbed the hill to the ridgetop. The small village of Bonnevaux just south of the wall would be the entre point for that region.

With that taken care of Fiach set out. Accompanying a caravan, the nearly 600 mile horseback trip took eighteen days, arriving on the Ides of March of 218. Fiach was warmly welcomed while wondering if the infamous date foretold future troubles. Julia Measa introduced her daughter Julia Soaemias and her grandson Sextus Varius Avitus Bassianus.

Though not to his face, the arrogant barely fourteen year old Sextus was most often referred to as Elagabalus, the high priest of Elagabal. The youth fervently believed in his god and reveled in performing the religious rituals with high theater and dedication. When not on duty, in the safety of the estate, the pampered youth dressed and behaved like a girl using makeup and flirting with males, going so far as to play at being a prostitute engaging in sex. Measa wanted Fiach to began a treatment that amounted to aversion therapy by slipping the youth drugs while dressed en femme that would make him ill. However his doting mother was vehemently against such treatments. Fiach agreed with the mother explaining that it was better to explain the health hazards to the youth and try to convince him that his portrayal of a female had to be kept utterly private. The youth laughed that a girl younger than he could possibly know what she was talking about and demanded she make love to him. Finally Measa sat Soaemias and Sextus down with Fiach ordering Fiach to explain her curse.

Fiach learned Measa didn’t know the truth about the curse but her deceased sister had figured out during the Caledonian campaign that Raben and Fiach were the same person. Fiach explained that she was really both fully male and fully female who found it more convenient at times to present as female because of her apparent age. They all found it difficult to believe the apparently preteen girl was fifty seven years old. To prove her ability to heal Fiach took a knife and sliced open the palm of her left hand then held it out for them to watch. Their eyes grew large as the bleeding stopped and they could see the wound slowly healing as they watched. Within half an hour there was no evidence of the wound.

“I was an undersize fourteen year old when I received the curse,” Fiach explained. “I have not aged or been ill since that day. Any injury I receive heals. Once I even died but the curse resurrected me.”

Sextus asked, “How did you get the curse?”

“I’m a Celtic German from outside the Empire,” Fiach explained. “Even at that young age I was the clan Ianuarian and a skilled hunter. A slaving party raided our villages while I was away, crucifying my adopted mother who had been the previous Ianuarian. I tracked them and at night took out the guards then slipped into the camp and slit the throats of every Roman. I killed ninety eight men that night and freed my people. One of those Romans had the curse. He came back to life but I speared him to a tree then nailed him to it. He told me he couldn’t die because of the curse. He’d been the Roman soldier who speared the side of the Jesus which is how he gained the curse.

“Jesus... the Jewish god king? He made the curse?” Sextus gasped.

“From what I know Jesus died on the cross and thrusting the spear in his side confirmed he was dead,” Fiach said. “They say Jesus came back to life three days later. Apparently the blessing that resurrected Jesus became a curse for the Roman soldier. He never changed from that day onward. When I encountered him he was one hundred sixty five years old. He was tired of living and watching everyone he loved grow old and die. He begged me to end his life. I figured out that if I burned his body and destroyed the ashes the curse would lift. He agreed. As I crushed his bones I felt the curse travel into me.”

“So if I have you killed and had your bones crushed I could live forever!” Sextus exclaimed in excitement.

“You would personally have to burn and crush my bones,” Fiach explained knowing the youth was quite adverse to work. “If you don’t age or change people would grow to hate you.”

“They’d think I was a GOD,” Sextus smiled evilly. “Elagabal come to earth! They’d worship me!”

“Until they realize you have no powers,” Fiach explained. “When they realize that they’ll rebel and kill you.”

“But I’d come back to life,” Sextus beamed.

“Only to be killed again and again until they lock you in a tomb where you’d be in the dark, starve to death, then resurrect over and over again,” Fiach declared. “I know from experience that dying is extremely painful!”

Much to Fiach’s relief the reality of dying repeatedly cooled Sextus’ desire to obtain the curse. However the spoiled youth was not one to take advice so his sexual antics continued although Fiach helped develop strategies to conceal and guide the teen’s actions to less conspicuous actions.

It also became clear to Fiach that Julia Measa was plotting to overthrow Macrinus and install her genderbending grandson as emperor. Despite his best intentions to stay out of the political turmoil Raben/Fiach had been sucked back into the thick of the morass.

Julia Maesa had her daughter publicly declare that her son was the illegitimate son of Caracalla and therefore deserving the loyalty of Roman soldiers and senators who had sworn allegiance to Caracalla. After Maesa paid a substantial bribe to the Third Legion at Raphana they swore allegiance to Sextus. At sunrise on May 16, 218 the commander of the legion, Comazon, declared the teen Emperor. To strengthen his legitimacy the youth assumed Caracalla's names, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus.

In response, Macrinus dispatched his Praetorian prefect Ulpius Julianus to the region with the Second Legion to crush the rebellion. However, during the battle, Julianus’ troops turned on their own commanders to join the Third Legion. The officers were killed and Julianus' head was sent back to the Macrinus who sent letters to the Senate denouncing Sextus as the False Antoninus and claiming the youth was insane. Both consuls and other high-ranking members of Rome's leadership condemned Sextus and the Senate subsequently declared war on both he and Julia Maesa. Fiach was stuck in the middle of the outlawed rebellion!

Macrinus, weakened by the desertion of the Second Legion due to bribes and promises circulated by Julia Maesa, was defeated on June 8, 218 at the Battle of Antioch by troops commanded by Gannys, who was the tutor and advisor of Sextus. Macrinus fled disguised as a courier but was intercepted near Chalcedon and executed in Cappadocia.

Sextus, thereafter known as Elagabalus (but never to his face), declared the date of the victory at Antioch to be the beginning of his reign and assumed the imperial titles without prior senatorial approval. This violated tradition but quickly became a common practice among 3rd-century emperors. Letters of reconciliation were dispatched to Rome extending amnesty to the Senate and recognizing the laws, while also condemning the administration of Macrinus. The senators willingly responded by acknowledging Elagabalus as emperor and accepting his claim to be the son of Caracalla. Caracalla and Julia Domna were both deified by the Senate, both Julia Maesa and her daughter, the new emperor’s mother Julia Soaemias, were elevated to the rank of Augustae, and the memory of Macrinus was expunged by the Senate. The former commander of the Third Legion, Comazon, was appointed commander of the Praetorian Guard.

Fiach was along for the wild imperial ride. Elagabalus lapped up the pomp and circumstances of Emperorship reveling in the raw power he wielded. Fiach helped Maesa contain the worse of the youth’s extravagance, more than once slipping him a sedative to calm him down and more than occasionally a sleeping potion as well. Elagabalus and his entourage spent the winter of 218 CE in Bithynia at Nicomedia, where the emperor's religious beliefs first presented themselves as a problem. Gannys was killed by order of the new emperor because he continually pressured Elagabalus to live "temperately and prudently".

When the entourage reached Rome in the autumn of 219, Comazon and other allies of Julia Maesa and Elagabalus were given powerful and lucrative positions, much to the chagrin of many senators who did not consider them worthy of such privileges. Since the reign of Septimius Severus, sun worship had increased throughout the Empire. Elagabalus saw this as an opportunity to install Elagabal as the chief deity of the Roman pantheon, renaming him in Latin as Deus Sol Invictus, meaning God the Undefeated Sun, and ordered he be honored above Jupiter. As a token of respect for traditional Roman religion, Elagabalus joined a combination of the goddesses Astarte, Minerva and Urania, to Elagabal as consort. The union between Elagabal and a traditional goddess served to strengthen ties between the new religion and the traditional Roman religions.

Since Fiach was in the service of the new emperor it was difficult for her to leave the imperial party. However Raben was under no restrictions and so moved about Rome, meeting people and making deals. Raben could visit Mazbar and Corvus Construction but was not allowed to travel further and had to return to the imperial palace each night. One of the things he ordered was the construction of vast catacombs beneath the toe on Mons Vaticanus. The original catacombs beneath the hill on which Corvus Scriptorium stood were too small to hold the already collected tomes and more were coming in every day.

On one of his outings Raben met the bishop of Rome, Callixtus I. However the bishop’s acts created a schism in the early church. He started to admit into the church converts from sects or schisms who had not done what some conservatives considered ‘proper’ penance. He fought with success the heretics, and established the practice of absolution of all sins, including adultery and murder. Hippolytus found Callixtus's policy of extending forgiveness of sins to cover sexual transgressions shockingly lax and denounced him for allowing believers to normalize liaisons with their own slaves by recognizing them as valid marriages. As a consequence of doctrinal differences, Hippolytus was elected as a rival Bishop of Rome, becoming the first anti-Bishop of Rome. Through all this Christianity was still not sanctioned by the empire. Christianity remained in stealth mode.

The relationships between Julia Maesa, Julia Soaemias, and Elagabalus were strong at first. Most Romans thought, not incorrectly, they were the power behind the throne. Fiach knew they exercised great influence over the young emperor throughout his reign but his own often bizarre ideas were not checked. The palace staff, which included Fiach, was very careful not to upset the spoiled, flippant, impudent, demanding and immature Emperor. Surrounded by sycophants who had the emperor’s ear, it wasn’t unusual for someone near Elagabalus who had even minutely upset the often childish emperor to be executed, usually for entertainment.

A lavish temple called the Elagabalium was built on the east face of the Palatine Hill to house the god Elagabal, who was represented by a black conical meteorite from Emesa. He forced senators to watch while he danced around the altar of his God to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals. Each summer solstice he held a festival dedicated to the god, which became popular with the masses because of the free food distributed on these occasions. During this festival, Elagabalus placed the Emesa stone on a chariot adorned with gold and jewels, which he paraded through the city. The most sacred relics from older standard Roman religions were transferred from their respective shrines to the Elagabalium. These included the emblem of the Great Mother, the fire of Vesta, the Shields of the Salii, and the statue of Pallas Athena, so that no other god could be worshiped except in association with Elagabal.

Despite the best efforts of Julia Maesa and Fiach, as Elagabalus grew into the power and privilege of being Emperor his sexual orientation became erratically confused. Elagabalus married and divorced five women, the second caused outrage because she was a Vestal Virgin. Elagabalus blew off all criticisms claiming the marriage would produce "godlike children". This was a flagrant breach of Roman law and tradition, which held that any Vestal found to have engaged in sexual intercourse was to be buried alive. Within a year he abandoned her and married the widow of a man he had executed. He returned to his second wife by the end of the year. His most stable relationship seems to have been with his male chariot driver, Hierocles, whom he referred to as his husband. He also married an athlete from Smyrna in a public ceremony at Rome. Elagabalus would paint his eyes, depilate his body hair and wear wigs before prostituting himself in taverns, brothels, and even in the imperial palace.

Fiach had her hands full turning away and exposing charlatans after Elagabalus offered vast sums of money to any physician who could equip him with female genitalia. The only positive was that the spoiled emperor had enough trust in Fiach to abide by her decisions that the numerous wild proposals were false and would prove painful if not fatal. It also helped the young emperor was a coward and feared pain.

In a last ditch effort to reign in the debauched emperor, Maesa and Fiach set aside a room in the palace where the wanton teen emperor could commit his indecencies away from the public eye. The spoiled teen would stand nude at the door of the room, as the harlots did, shaking the curtain which hung from gold rings, while in a soft and melting voice solicited the passers-by who were, of course, male slaves who had been specially instructed to play their part. As in other matters, so in this torrid business, there were discreet agents who sought out those who could best please the decadent emperor by their foulness. Elagabalus even demanded fees from his patrons and haughtily flaunted his illicit gains.

Despite the best efforts of Maesa and Fiach the irreverent boy would still visit the brothels to brag to his ‘associates’ that he had more lovers and took in more money than they did. Elagabalus enhanced his natural good looks by the regular application of cosmetics, delighted to be called the mistress, the wife, the queen of Hierocles.

By 221 Maesa finally admitted her grandson was a spoiled brat drunk on power doing as he pleased much to the angst of the Senate, populace and most importantly the Legions. In an effort to save her place at the top she convinced Elagabalus to appoint his younger cousin Alexander as his heir and co-consul. Alexander was a serious thirteen year old who was appalled by his cousin’s lewd actions. They shared the consulship for almost a year. However, Elagabalus grew jealous suspecting the Praetorian Guard preferred his cousin to himself. Fiach proved pivotal in foiling various attempts on Alexander's life killing a dozen assailants in numerous skirmishes. Frustrated, Elagabalus stripped his cousin of his titles, revoked his consulship and invented the rumor that Alexander was near death, in order to see how the Praetorians would react.

A riot ensued and the Imperial Guard demanded to see Elagabalus and Alexander in the Praetorian camp. Feeling their anger, the less than brave emperor complied and on March 11, 222, along with his mother, Julia Soaemias, he publicly presented his cousin. On their arrival the soldiers started cheering Alexander while ignoring Elagabalus. In a rage, Elagabalus ordered the summary arrest and execution of anyone who had taken part in this display of insubordination. In response the Praetorian Guard attacked Elagabalus and his mother. As she clutched him they were slain. Their heads were cut off and their naked bodies dragged all over Rome before being thrown in the Tiber River. He was just eighteen.

The Praetorians promptly declared Severus Alexander the new Emperor. The thirteen year old succeeded his cousin becoming, at that time, the youngest person to ever rule Rome. The military and Senate led a bloodbath as the debauched sycophant associates of the dead Elagabalus were hunted down like the animals they were and executed. The humiliating and infuriating religious edicts were reversed, the stone of Elagabal was sent back to Emesa, and the plundered Roman temples restored. Women were again barred from attending meetings of the Senate. The practice of erasing from the public record a disgraced personage formerly of note was systematically applied.

Julia Maesa was the grandmother of the deceased emperor as well as the new emperor, thus survived the purge but was definitely sidelined, exiled to a rural estate never to leave. Severus Alexander’s main adviser was his mother, another daughter of Julia Maesa, Julia Mamaea. Knowing nothing of Fiach’s secret, she saw no need for the female personal physician with her manly son.

Fiach was released from Imperial Service, or as he thought of it, being chewed up and spit out by the political upheaval. After four years of living exclusively as a female immersed in the drama of Imperial Rome she had adapted to daily life as a girl. Since she was intersex and gaining the Curse before either puberty exerted its influence, she had never experienced normal male or nor female sexuality. In fact she experienced no sexuality. As such she had no need to revert to present as a male. However, having been so intimately involved with the volatile Elagabalus for his entire reign, Fiach decided to once again attempt to slip out of public view, doing so by resuming life as Raben.

Fortunately all the businesses Raben had established flourished while he was tied up in Imperial service. Fiach had served as investment advisor/broker for Elagabalus. Since insider trading was not illegal, she had taken advantage of her intimate involvement with the imperial household to invest her already great personal finances in very profitable ventures easily increasingly her investments ten fold. With the demise of Elagabalus as well as his cronies in whose names she had also made clandestine investments, all knowledge of those investments disappeared with their deaths. As the sole survivor, Fiach quietly assumed ownership more than quadrupling her wealth making her the wealthiest person in the entire Roman Empire. Wisely she kept that secret through a series of shell companies she had established. All the profits were funneled into Mazbar. Huge amounts of gold, silver and jewels were regularly sent off to the Barmaz archive. Fortunately she also had the sense to avoid living lavishly and flaunting her wealth. Instead maintaining a modest but comfortable lifestyle wisely keeping her wealth unpublicized.

Once away from Imperial life Raben purchased twenty more slaves to take to Barmaz to assist those already there. Before he left Rome with his new slaves Raben met with the new, Bishop of Rome, Urban I, and the anti-Bishop of Rome Hippolytus who refused to recognize Urban insisting he was the true Bishop of Rome. Neither was able to convince Raben to abandon Ianuaria but thanked him for allowing Corvus Scriptorium to copy and sell/distribute Christian documents. They realized the youth was better read about Christianity than they. In addition they didn’t realize how much money they were putting into Raben’s coffers.

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Comments

Raben/Fiach really needs to

Raben/Fiach really needs to quit telling people how they achieved immortality, one of these days someone won't be so weak willed and will attempt to steal the immortality for themselves ending Raben/Fiach life.

Smart

joannebarbarella's picture

Raben/Fiach's business dealings must remain confidential to avoid rumours of his/her wealth attracting jealousy and attacks by rivals and predators.

Much of their machinations would be illegal by modern-day standards but totally normal by the mores of the Roman Empire, particularly when corruption was commonplace, as it surely was in those turbulent and uncertain times.

I've never

Wendy Jean's picture

seen any real evidence that she was intersexed except for matters of convenience, still enjoying the story.