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by Alex Domokos, Rita Toews
Category: Historical Fiction/Spiritual/Religion
Description: It is an era of corruption, intrigue and seduction. Caesar Augustus has died and Tiberius is about to become the second emperor of Rome. Marco, former slave in the house of Claudius, is now a freedman and has become master of the grain shipments at the Claudia Procula estate in Ostia. Procula and her cousin, Claudius the Stammerer, unwittingly involve Marco in a political scheme that could threaten the throne and puts them all at risk. For everyone's safety, Marco is forced into the Roman Legion and is eventually posted in Judea. Several years later he is reunited with his former mistress, who is now the wife of the procurator of Judea, and the old political maneuver once again threatens their safety. When Marco stands trial for aiding a new sect of fanatics who promote a false faith, he is faced with an agonizing choice--where does his allegiance lay? With Rome, or with the truth?
eBook Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory/Hard Shell Word Factory, 2006 2006
eBookwise Release Date: October 2006
12 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [526 KB]
Reading time: 343-480 min.
"If you like the Marcus Didius Falco series of Lindsay Davies, you will enjoy this book. It's darker, longer (120,000 words), and heavier on the history, but deals with almost the same period and is based on careful research by the authors. Building on what we know of first century Rome and Romans, the authors have fleshed out the characters to make them into very believable people. The handling of Pontius Pilate and his wife are particularly good. Pilate is a man torn by conflicting motivations: expediency, loyalty, self-preservation, and that little voice in the dark of night that makes you wonder if you are doing the right thing. He could well have walked out of any political arena in today's world. This is the perfect book for a long weekend when you really didn't want to mow the lawn or clear out the garage anyway."--Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader
"Writers Domokos and Toews have done their homework. The Centurion is filled with more than enough historical and Biblical fact to keep the most discerning reader turning the pages. Lives of historical figures are enlarged or strengthened as we come to see some of them in a more human light. Inscrutability, stratagem, life and death struggle, historical fact and historical 'might have been' are all ntermingled into a compelling read. The Centurion is a must have for those who find history enticing and want to immerse themselves in a well written account concerning the lives of lesser along with well-known figures from earlier days. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend for the home pleasure reading list, the high school library shelf and the community library reading public. Absorbing Read.... Recommended. 5 stars!"--Molly Martin
"The book is based on impeccable research. The times, traditions and values of Rome are brought to life. The people, their motivations, joys and fears are genuine. You can learn more about Rome from this novel than from a library full of dry history books. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of this book is the language: it's very easy reading."--Dr. Bob Rich, M.Sc., Ph.D.
City of Ostia
"I TELL YOU, I have no need for your services. Let me pass." Marco moved to bypass the giant who blocked his way.
"Everyone has need of the services I provide. The master of grain shipments for the house of Claudius is no exception." He shot out an enormous arm to block Marco's passage. "You would be wise to consider my offer."
Marco met, and held, the challenger's look. "Move aside, or I'll summon the guard." The words were delivered with enough force to make an impact.
As the man lowered his arm, Marco noticed three fingers of his hand were missing. A retired gladiator then. Maimed fighters who could no longer compete were released and often frequented the port area, offering their service for protection, intimidation or even assassination. Marco sidestepped the colossus and continued toward the waterfront.
The heat of the afternoon sun lay heavy on his shoulders. Overhead gulls mewled as they rode the air currents, their strident voices blending with the noise of the busy harbor of Ostia, Rome's outlet to the sea.
Rome was the center of the world, so it was natural that rogues of the Empire gathered at Ostia either for their journey into Rome or on their departure from the city to seek their fortunes. Here, aged actors recited verses from the Aeneid for the price of a meal, and physicians who vowed they knew the cures for all sicknesses, plied their trade. Thieves and prostitutes mingled with merchants, sailors and vendors. Life on the wharf progressed at a frantic pace.
Marco worked his way through the crowds around the food vendors' booths, his mission set aside for the moment as he enjoyed the energy of his surroundings. Strange tongues from far-away places fell like music on his ears. So many languages from so many countries. If only he could explore those lands where the exotic speech was used.
Once on the wharf, sharp salt-laden air washed away the earthy smells of the market. It was time to concentrate on his duties. Marco shaded his eyes from the sun's harsh glare and focused his attention on the mouth of the river where it spilled into the harbor. Several flat-bottomed barges were about to enter the shallow waters of the Tiber, the watery causeway that led to Rome. Each bore the mark of the house of Claudius and rode low in the water, a sign they were heavily laden. Some of the tension left his body. The loading had gone well then, despite a shortage of labor in the warehouse. By the time the next grain shipment arrived from Egypt, the eight slaves purchased this very afternoon by Heraclitos, the estate's major-domo, would be put to good use.
Thought of the new slaves brought a bitter taste to Marco's mouth. The memory of the stench of their unwashed bodies lingered in his nostrils. What whim of the gods decreed that he, the son of a slave, should be given his freedom at an early age while others were bound to servitude until released by death? He toed the beaten surface of the quay and fought to erase the picture of the slave barracks from his mind. The fathomless blank stares of the miserable creatures shackled there haunted him.
He turned his back on the sea, satisfied that the grain shipment was safely on its way, and returned to the market. The aroma of fried chickpea balls reminded him he had missed his lunch. He was lured to a food stall where he purchased a piece of flatbread stuffed with three of the fragrant morsels. For the price of an extra coin he had the vendor add slivers of cucumber and onions. With the savory meal in his hand Marco set out on the dusty road that led home, to the Claudius family's estate.
Tiredness set in. It was a relief to get away from the activity of the waterfront. His days might begin early, but at least he had never known the torture of manual labor. He gave silent thanks to the gods for their favor, for his life had been destined for something far different.
He was born the second son of a slave in the patrician house of Claudius Nero. The master freed the entire family when Marco was in his fourth year. The manumission was in recognition of his father's faithful service as master of the estate's grain shipments. After his father's death, Marco had been allowed to follow in his footsteps.
Marco gave his head a shake to forcibly dispel the memories. Sixteen sacrifices to his genius natalis had been made to celebrate his birth date since his manumission, twenty sacrifices in total since the time of his birth.
The harbor fell behind him as he made his way along the road to the Claudian villa at the southern end of the bay. A winding lane through a pine grove connected the estate to the cypress-bordered main thoroughfare. The nobility jealously guarded this part of the hill, only members of the patrician class were allowed to own property in the vicinity.
Spurred by impulse several hundred yards before the estate gate, Marco stepped off the road and followed a path that wound past the estate to a small bay. The trail was well-worn, used by man and animal alike over the years to traverse the property. The bay was his favorite destination when he needed time alone, time to work through a problem or an unsettling situation such as the recent death of the master.
Claudius Nero had not been a master to fear. Although most of the great lords were at best inconsiderate, old Claudius Nero was an exception. He seldom visited the quay where the transfer of grain took place, and the slave dormitories and freedmen's quarters were considered unfit for aristocrats to visit.
But even members of the patrician class died, and so it was with Claudius Nero. Now his nephew, Tiberius Nero, had become head of the family.
Soon after the funeral Tiberius had arrived from Rome, unannounced. His decisions concerning the estate were swift and made without consultation with the estate's residents. He had no interest in the Ostia holdings and confirmed Heraclitos in his position as major-domo for the day-to-day running of the property.
Marco's position as administrator of the grain shipments was also confirmed, but one of the master's other decisions was of deep concern to Marco. Tiberius had ordered all slaves on the estate who required constant supervision transferred to his own holdings in Rome, thereby throwing the Ostia estate into an acute labor shortage.
Today's purchase of slaves by Heraclitos was a timely acquisition. For weeks now Marco had been forced to use hired help to shovel grain from the holds of the ships for transfer to the barges. It was hot, suffocating work, and those who signed on for the task demanded top wages. Unfortunately, their salaries reflected negatively on the grain trade portion of the estate ledgers.
Thoughts of his new master, Tiberius, who was the adopted son of Emperor Augustus, brought back memories of the man's curious rise to power. It was a scandal that shook the very roots of the Roman aristocracy, a group well accustomed to unfaithfulness and divorce in their ranks. Marco had learned of the events several years earlier from a conversation between his mother and a slave woman.
"I don't care if Livia is the wife of the Emperor now." His mother's indignation had cut through each word. "The way she divorced her first husband was shameless. She threw herself at Augustus to advance her own fortunes, and those of her precious son, Tiberius. Her sole purpose in life is to ensure Tiberius rules the empire one day."
Copyright © 2006 Alex Domokos and Rita Y. Toews.