Chapter Eleven -- Famine, sword fights, fainting, banishment and a secret alliance.
• "There were some present who saw an omen in this similarity between my dress and Augustus's, further remarking that I had been born on the first day of the month named after him, and at Lyons, too, on the very day that he had dedicated an altar there to himself. Or, at any rate, that was what they said they had said, many years after." No, he's not cynical at all, is he? He's probably right, of course. How did that work, dedicating an altar to yourself? Were offerings to the gods made there in your name, or were offerings made to you?
• So, usually the sword fights were WWF-style fakery? Did they usually go easier on the gentlemen-turned-slaves-turned-sword-fighters than on the regular slaves? I know nothing about this period, and clearly need to know more. I need a list of books, please.
• "...and a third had his shield-arm lopped off close to the shoulder, which caused roars of laughter." This is not one of those historical novels that makes me thing, "Le sigh and le swoon. I was born in the wrong era."
• The fight between the Roach and the Thessalian was wonderful and awful: "Then he returned to the pleasant task of goading and dispatching an unarmed man." Livia's comment about it at the end was also wonderful and awful: "And served him right. That's what comes of underrating one's opponent. I'm disappointed in that net-man. Still, it has saved me that five hundred in gold, so I can't complain, I suppose." (I suspect I would have enjoyed the scene much less if the underdog hadn't won.)
• Claudius' faint at the fight made Livia think even less of him -- and a good thing, too, since she discovered his father's biography the next day.
• Well, we knew it was only a matter of time: Livia got rid of Postumus. But she only got him banished, so there's still hope -- and he, The Embodiment of Awesomeness, took the opportunity to let loose:
I said to Livia: 'Aemilia's reward for this lie is to be married to Silanus, isn't it? And what does Livilla get? Did you promise to poison her present husband and provide her with a handsomer one?' Once I had mentioned poison I knew that I was doomed. So I decided to say as much as I could while I had the opportunity. I asked Livia just how she had arranged the poisoning of my father and brothers and whether she favoured slow poisons or quick ones.
I'm rather shocked that she didn't have him killed on the spot. And he didn't even stop there -- he let Augustus have it, too:
I told him that in name he was Emperor of the Romans but in fact he was less free than the girl slave of a drunken bawd-master, and that one day his eyes would be opened to the unnatural crimes and deceits of his abominable wife. But meanwhile, I said, my love and loyalty to him remain unchanged.
I confess I found it rather satisfying when Castor's front teeth got knocked out. I'm looking forward to Claudius' super-spy messages.
Chapter Twelve -- War in the Balkans, war in Germany, more banishment and Ovid goes into voluntary exile.
• So Claudius' research and writing helped win the war, but he didn't get any public acknowledgment. I almost always sense that Claudius is smirking at Augustus, but affectionately and somewhat sympathetically:
I could extract little or no useful matter from these eulogies and Augustus in reading my book must have felt himself slighted. He identified himself so closely with the success of the war that he moved from Rome to a town on the North-East frontier of Italy, to be as near as he could to the fighting; and as Commander-in-Chief of the Roman Armies he was continually sending Tiberius not very helpful military advice.
I feel a little bit bad for Augustus. He's so sadly loser-y. That last sentence made me envision David Brent and Michael Scott decked out Roman-style.
• Long live The Roach:
Cassius had a big supply of bows and arrows in his fortress and taught everyone, even the women and slaves, to use them.
• It's a good thing there are so many islands:
The close of the year was marked by the banishment of Julilla on the charge of promiscuous adultery--just like her mother Julia--to Tremerus, a small island off the coast of Apulia. the real reason for her banishment was that she was just about to bear another child, which if it were a boy would be a great-grandson of Augustus, and unrelated to Livia; Livia was taking no risks now.
What's Livia's reasoning here? To keep her bloodline in power just for the sake of doing so, because she has more control over them, because they're less likely to pull a Postumus and question her authority, or all of the above?
Chapter Thirteen -- The end of Augustus.
• "Though Fate had decreed against his grandsons succeeding him he would surely one day reign again, as it were, in the persons of his great-grandchildren." Returning to what I was wondering about above, is that also Livia's train of thought? Does she want her descendants to rule because even after she's dead, she'll still be in charge?
• I just lost a whole lot of respect for Germanicus. Comparing Livia to the Good Goddess? That's the silliest thing I've ever heard. I rarely have patience for characters who always think the best of everyone.
• Five pages later, and I like Germanicus again. I'm so fickle.
• Augustus finally steps up. And then dies. (Did Livia manage to poison him? Probably. And poor Marcia -- I'm surprised Livia didn't take her out along with Fabius.) Damn. But Postumus is still on the loose!