The two most important days of your life: the day you were born and the day you find out why --Mark Twain

Praetoria Potestas

First Posted: Feb. 26, 2016, 8:18 p.m. CST
Last Updated: Nov. 14, 2019, 3:06 p.m. CST
And thus is how the Republic died, not with the thunderclap of armed combat, but in quiet reticence. It died in muted silence within the hearts of good men too afraid to act.

Gaius Julius Caesar had captured Vercingetorix the Gaul, and defeated the Arverni, Aquitanians, Eburones and the Belgae in Gaul and Hispania. Caesar led two expeditions to Britannia and conquered Cenimagni, the Segontiaci, the Ancalites, the Bibroci. His legions defeated the Batavii and Suebi in Germania. Believing Rome was in peril, he led a single legion, Legio XIII Gemina, south over the Rubicon from Cisalpine Gaul in defiance of Rome’s Senate and Imperium. Caesar pursued his political rival, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, the length of the peninsula and across the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas, in Iberia and into Greece. Along the way he gathered a vast army and at the battle of Pharsalus, Caesar had his quarry. Aeneas Spurius Salvidienus, a Praetorian Prefect, stands upon the portico of the temple Thetideion; a temple belonging to a god not of his choosing. With his cohort assembled at the steps beneath him, depleted in numbers on account of the day’s fighting, the Prefect surveys the battlefield dead numbering in the hundreds. In the heavens, like dark angels, the daughters of Nyx circled in their feathered form whilst the four legged Cerebus and his pups nudge the dead. In quiet reflection, the Prefect considered the scene: this night the carrion eaters, cursed and foul children of Thanatus, shall satiate their hunger and feast well upon the sons of Rome.

The river Enipeas runs crimson with the blood of the fallen. For this day, in Thessaly, Rome fought not with its enemies in Germania or Gaul, not with insurrectionists in Judea or Britannia, but with its own sons. Eighteen Roman legions collided on the shores and fields of the Enipeas. The enemy camp on the far shore lay in ruin; its standards and banners tattered and torn, discarded in the summer dust. No more shall they flutter beneath the Porta Triumphalis of Rome to honour the saviour of Samos and Mytelene; Triumphator of the Orient.

With his face speckled with blood, Aeneas strides into the temple and fixes his gaze at the mute idol within and the offerings at its feet. The Praetorian clutches a handful of his cloak and wipes the blood from his Gladius and sheathes his weapon. Behind him, the soft steps of a scribe, like a woman’s whisper, captures the Praetorian’s wary attention. Caesar brought a number of scribes to record his ascension to the throne. Gaipor Servus was one such scribe. The Praetorian spoke thus to the scribe who was recording the events of that day:

"When, I, a Praetorian of the first order, upon this battlefield, slew the enemies of my state, and they in turn slew the enemies of their state. Was not the reasons for killing no more arbitrary than the reasons I held another man alive whether he dwelleth in the Domus Aurea of the Senate or the egeni of the catacumbae di via Appia? Is the fact that my tailor differs from thine sufficient to wet my blade with the blood of thee and thine? Should I hoist a scrap of cloth on yonder timber and thou find offense in the hue and thus cause thine blade to still my beating heart?"

Raising his bloody hand as an offering to the stone hewn diety, the Praetorian continued:

“Or be my faith a shade paler than thine, or mayhaps I believe the grass to be green and thou believeth water wet… or I hail from this lea and thou from yonder meadow… are not any of these sufficient cause to take offense and strike blows at each other; to spill each other’s blood for the temple of our gods and the ashes of our fathers. Oh fair Helena, did not the wise Greeks start quarrels and spill the blood of men for less?"

"Hail Rome, that glimmering city on a hill. Better are we than our ancestors. Have we not surpassed our fathers in deeds and accomplishments. Yet, do we not issue from conquered Carthage and fallen Troy, and they not issue from the Greeks, masters of philosophy and reason, who bested with sword and javelin the ancient masters of Babylon. The past is strong indeed. This rejuvenation of a corpse supriseth me. It appeareth, like a specter, to all a victor, this dancing dead body, this malingering manifestation of past deeds, and hailed in memory as Hannibal, the conquering hero; the savior of the Republic. He arriveth with his legions, superstition; with his sword, despotism; beneath his banner of ignorance awhile ago he won ten battles. He pursues, he advances, he laughs, and he standeth at our gates, and cries, “Hail, the Republic!”

Servus, the scribe, watched the Prefect Aeneas. The bloody cloak, the battled hardened Gladius; with his free hand the prefect took hold of his helm and slowly freed his head from its weight. His black hair matted with sweat and blood. He drops his helm and lets it clatter like a brass pot on the temple floor. He touches two fingers to his forehead, just above the eye. He draws the hand back and finds blood sticky and congealing on its tips. All of a sudden, the warrior, seemed weary and tired.

"Prefect, if thou counsel bears fruit, and thine words spoken carrieth the weight of truth. Then this day heralds not victory for the Republic, but its death. Has Caesar stolen the power for his own? And thou, champion of Rome, art complacent in the theft?"

The Prefect slowly turned and unsheathed and raised his Gladius to the scribe who in turn put his stylus to rest. Thus did the Prefect reply:

"Stolen? Citizen, thou find fault in me and blame me for this theft thou speaketh of? Power is ne’er stolen by the wicked, but rather it is gladly surrendered by the ignorant and weak. Hark and gaze upon thine Caesar in gilded chariot, resplendent in his victory. Surrounded by his legions; three seasons past, he won ten battles. There, citizen, is thine new god, though false he may be, it was by thine own hand he was crowned. Thou speaketh of theft? There was no thief in the night. Thou, the citizen, grew lazy and tired of the burden. Thou, with gladness of heart, surrendered it to Caesar upon the Via Sacra under the noon day sun."

That night by flickering light Servus the blind thought upon what he had witnessed and the words of the Prefect in the temple that afternoon. Through the dark night the scribe thought upon the words of the Praetorian; words that weighed heavy upon his soul. Thought he did until night’s dark purple faded to the pink of dawn. Though in his heart, he knew the Prefect’s words to hold truth; his mouth was silenced by fear. And thus is how the Republic died, not with the thunderclap of armed combat, but in quiet reticence. It died in muted silence within the hearts of good men too afraid to act. Convinced he was alone and too afraid to look around, the scribe, takes up his stylus and records for posterity his ideal of the Praetorian and thus pens an ode to the Hero of Rome:

The Praetorian

Beneath my shield shadow
in quiet slumber the republic sleeps.
I am the Praetorian;
here I stand at the gate
and none shall pass-
This is my duty and my fate:
the sword and shield
of the state.

My courage will not falter;
and my strength shalt not yield.
I am the tip of the spear;
the edge of the knife;
and none do I fear.

For every man who walks this earth,
Death cometh to him soon or late
And how can a man die a better death
Than facing fearful odds;
for the ashes of his fathers;
and the temples of his gods.

This article was written by Joaquin Rafael Roces. "In my youth, chased dragon flies as they danced through sunbeams. I found myself lost in the dark woods. Some where between Gethsemane and Calvary, I lost my way. I was a man lost between two stations, who I was and who I should be. In that journey, I was many things, and I was not always honorable, certainly not dignified. As a bull rider, I never won a rodeo or a jackpot. I never walked away with sparkly spurs and a polished buckle. But what I did do is that every time I was bucked off and ended up with a face full of dirt I got up again. And again. And again. My friends call me Scar because I carry on my person the scars of my folly. Wounds and scars from the Marines, rock climbing, bull riding, snowboarding and skate boarding. Life is not a race to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body. As Hunter Thompson declared one should skid in broadside in a cloud of dust and smoke, completely spent, and totally worn out. Life is not a spectator sport, you don't watch it from the sidelines or the bleachers. It is a contact sport. Get your feet wet, your nose bloodied and your hands dirty. That's who I am. I get a kick out of life, even if it's a kick in the teeth." --Joaquin Rafael Roces

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