Chapter II - Servitum

Please note that this chapter contains sexually explicit and violent images and text. If you strongly object to any of these images please contact the blog author at and the offending material can be removed. Equally please do not view this chapter if such material may offend.
Marcus and a slave troupe of dancing boys are taken to Crete, and from there to Brundisium (which was Marcus' original destination, on his way to Rome).In Brundisium the pirates sell Marcus and the dancing boys to a high class Greek slave trader called Arion.Arion spends much time questioning Marcus - trying to discover his 'true' identity, and eventually he makes a deal with a late night visitor - so that Markos (as Marcus is now called), will be quickly sold in a 'rigged' auction.Marcus is subsequently put into an auction, and described as 'Markos' a Greek bilingual, attractive and educated slave-boy.Many bids are made for him until one young man makes a phenomenally high bid (in gold), that no one else in the auction room can match.

'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.
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.
However, that explanation would have been of little interest to Marcus.
Stripped naked, he spent his first night on Crete, with the boy dance troupe, in a slave pen, awaiting his fate.
It might have been the spring, when the seas were expected to be calm, and the weather good, but at night the slave pens, situated in the harbour, were cold and forbidding, as the salt sprayed wind whipped up from the sea.
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 people who they believed to be 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 may have 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.
Now Arion - who was the young Greek slave trader - may have been young, but he was far from inexperienced.
His father before him had traded in slaves, and Arion, from boyhood, had learned the dificult and complicated trade.
The Armenian prisoners he would take, just to keep the pirate leader happy.
The troupe of dancing boys he knew he could get a good price for.
The Greek 'slave-boy' puzzled him.
He could, even on first glance, see that the boy was attractive - in fact his refined, slim physique looked very much like a product of a Greek gymnasion.
To Arion's eyes, the boy would be a prefect ephebe, once he was cleaned up, oiled, and had his hair brushed and curled - and that was exactly what many rich Roman patricians were wiling to pay handsomely for.
Arion had struck lucky.
The leader of the pirates had been in so much of a hurry to rid himself of his human cargo, and get his bronze, marble and statues to Alexandria, that he had overlooked to obvious value of the dancing troupe, and also the 'Greek slave-boy'.


'Sailing to Brundisium' - The next morning the boys and Marcus were roughly taken out of the slave pens, chained together, and led to another merchant vessel belonging to Arion.
As fate would have it, the boat was bound for Brundisium, which had been the original destination of the family of the late Gaius Aelius and his wife, and his now enslaved son.
Brundisium was an Ancient Greek settlement pre-dating 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. After the Punic Wars it became a major centre 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.
It was good sailing weather, and 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.
As it happened, the voyage was uneventful, and they soon weighed anchor at the busy port of Brundisium.
Arion then  quickly arranged for his consignment of chained, naked slaves, including the dancing troupe, and Marcus, to be unloaded.
Despite his youth, Arion, 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. 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. Handsome, educated boys, like Marcus, and beautiful, accomplished girls could cost huge sums, sometimes being worth literally their weight in gold.
On this occasion Arion made next to no money on the Armenian prisoners, and had sold them off on the quayside (which was actually against regulations - but the Roman officials could be easily bought off).
He was hoping, however, to make a good return on the young boy dancers - Greeks from about 14 to 18 years old, all healthy, apparently well-trained, and good-looking.
He had not, though, 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.
Instead he saw Marcus' story as a rather ridiculous, but not unknown ploy by the boy to avoid enslavement.
Leaving the Armenians to their fate, Arion's 'guards' hustled the dancing troupe and Marcus into a waiting wagon.
Marcus, of course, had no idea where he was.
He could see it was a busy port, and wondered to where he would be taken.
Although he was used to exercising naked in his local gymnasion in Athens, he did find it strange to be sitting in a wagon in a bustling street wearing absolutely nothing - but he was surprised, and relieved to see that no one was taking the slightest notice of either himself, or his equally naked companions.


'The House of Arion' - It was a short ride, and soon the wagon pulled up outside what looked like a large imposing domus (town house).
This was in fact Arion's place of business.
It was intended to be discreet, as those who patronised Arion were members of the aristocracy and upper classes - and not just from Brundisium.
The wagon did not stop at the main entrance, however, but turned down a narrow alleyway to the rear of the building.
Here Arion's new slaves were unceremoniously pulled from the wagon, and pushed through a small doorway into a corridor.
Marcus and the boys were then led down the corridor, which was punctuated by numerous stout wooden doors, studded with iron for extra strength.
Meanwhile they could hear the door leading to the alleyway shutting with a loud and very firm thump, followed by the metallic sound of a key turning in a lock.
One of the doors in the corridor was then opened, and Marcus and the boys were shoved into a relatively large room, set out as a dormitory.
Although the conditions were Spartan, the room was spotlessly clean, and was furnished with a number of simple wooden beds, each one provided with a thin mattress, a pillow, and a couple of blankets.
At one end of  the room were toilet facilities, along with sponges (Romans used sponges instead of toilet paper), towels, and large jugs of water.
All the boys, including Marcus simply found a bed and flopped down, exhausted by their previous experiences.
Nobody said anything - they were all far too tired.
After about and hour the door of the dormitory was opened, and Arion and two of his burly 'house slaves' entered.
One of the 'house slaves' told the boys to get up and stand in a row in the centre of the room.
Arion went down the line, looking at each boy with an obviously practised eye.
Arion, as he inspected his new acquisitions, came to Marcus.
Almost immediately Arion noticed Marcus' 'gold' bulla, which the pirates, in their haste (and surprise at the good price they were given), had failed to remove - and was still hung on a leather cord round Marcus' neck..
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 free-born 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.


'Interview with Arion' - "Bring him to the atrium !", (main room in the domus), Arion ordered, and then turned away, and left the dormitory.
The other boys slunk back to their beds, and Marcus still with his hands chained, was taken by the house-slaves down another corridor.
Moments later he entered a large, opulent atrium.
Arion was sitting in an ornate gilded bronze chair.
"Remove his chains !", Arion ordered - taking a risk, but hoping that the boy would appreciate the trust he was being shown, and maybe react in kind.
Marcus in Arion's atrium
Marcus was forced to stand in front of Arion, still naked, but with his chains removed.
"So, boy - you call yourself Marcus ?", Arion said questioningly in Greek.
Marcus nodded, tongue-tied with fear.
"Now what's your real name, boy ?", Arion demanded.
"Marcus, sir !", Marcus replied timidly.
"Well if it's Marcus, why are you talking to me in Greek ?", Arion retorted, obviously getting exasperated.
"Because you're talking to me in Greek.", Marcus replied, trying not to sound like he was being cheeky.
"All right,", Arion continued, now in Latin, but with a strong Greek accent.
"So let's hear you speak Latin."
"Yes, Domine - what do you want me to say.", Marcus replied in Latin.
"Just as I thought - with a Greek accent.", Arion replied.
"So you are a Greek boy - a Greek slave-boy - whom I will call Μάρκος (Markos the Greek form of Marcus).", Arion said, a little triumphantly.
In Roman times this changing from Greek to Latin when speaking was not at all unusual among those who were educated - and was required of upper class Romans and those in positions of authority. This bilingual ability was also common among educated and therefore valuable slaves - and particularly among Greek slaves.
So this supposedly '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.
Arion rose from his seat an went to a marble topped table behind where Marcus was standing.
The table was strewn with scrolls - one of which he picked up.
Returning to where Marcus was standing, he gave the scroll to Marcus.
"Read it boy !",Arion said.
There was something in Arion's tone of voice that made Marcus believe that Arion thought that he couldn't read.
Marcus opened the scroll.
"μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί' Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε' ἔθηκε,
πολλὰς δ' ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προί̈αψεν
ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι, Διὸς δ' ἐτελείετο βουλή,"
Marcus read clearly and easily.....
"Enough !
And what is it, boy ?", Arion asked, slightly taken aback.
"It's from the first book of the Iliad, by Homer.", Marcus replied.
Arian nodded, and took the scroll from Marcus.
Arion took a second scroll from the table and gave it to Marcus, and again he told Marcus to read the beginning of the scroll.
Marcus read from the scroll.....
Interea medium Aeneas iam classe tenebat
certus iter fluctusque atros Aquilone secabat
moenia respiciens, quae iam infelicis Elissae
conlucent flammis. quae tantum accenderit ignem
causa latet; duri magno sed amore dolores
polluto, notumque furens quid femina possit,
triste per augurium Teucrorum pectora ducunt.
ut pelagus tenuere rates nec iam amplius ulla
occurrit tellus, maria undique et undique caelum,
olli caeruleus supra caput astitit imber 
And what is that, boy ?", Arion asked.
"It's from the fifth book of the Aeneid, by Virgil.", Marcus replied.
Arian nodded, - and actually smiled as he took the scroll from Marcus.
So, you can read Greek and Latin - very good...
Arion sat down, scratching his chin.
"Good..... now go to that table, there's a wax tablet and a stylus there - write 'I am a boy and my name is Marcus.' - first in Greek, and then in Latin.", Arion said carefully.
Marcus did as he had been instructed, and handed the tablet to Arion.
"So.... you are a puzzle, young Markos." Arion said.
By then Arion's stare was so intense, as he tried to work out who or what Marcus was that, for the first time since his capture, Marcus became embarrassed by his nakedness.
"I see that at last you are a little embarrassed by being naked, but a real freeborn Roman boy would show far more embarrassment that you do, and would attempt to use his hands to cover his 'private parts'.... So explain.", Arion said.
"When I lived in Athens I would often go to the local gymnasion, and the Greek custom is to exercise naked - so I got used to it.", Marcus explained
"I see....", Arion said slowly.
"So you do admit that you lived in Athens ?", Arion queried.
"I never denied it sir." Marcus replied quietly.
"I just said I was not Greek."
All this left Arion thinking....
The fact that this boy could read and write Greek and Latin 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 to be a clever, and very unlikely fantasy.
At that point, Arion sent Marcus away to be cleaned up, as the voyage, and the time in the slave pens, had left him looking dishevelled and dirty.
After bathing and a quick massage, Markos was brought again to Arion's atrium.
Marcus was still naked, as he would be for the slave sale, but again he did not in any way seem embarrassed.
This was confirming, to Arion, that Marcus was, in reality, Greek, (male Roman citizens were averse to being naked, unlike Greeks)
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, Marcus was given a break, during which he ate some bread, grapes and cheese, seasoned with garum, and had a drink of  wine, diluted with water.
It was the first proper meal that Marcus had had in many days.
While Marcus was eating, Arion just sat and watched the boy, but Marcus was unaware of the fact, being far more interested in the food.


'Enter Terentius' - Then there was the unobtrusive approach of a much younger slave-boy, who whispered something into Arion's ear.
Arion nodded, and the boy disappeared, only to return moments later with a well dressed man, wearing a gold embroidered red tunic, and probably in his late twenties.
Terentius Visits Arion
"Ah....Terentius !", Arion exclaimed, rising from his seat.
I was not expecting you, but it is fortunate that you arrive at this time.", Arion added, smiling and offering his hand.
Terentius, as far as Marcus could see, was obviously well known to Arion.
"I have an unusual lad here that you may be interested in, but he is a bit of a puzzle, and could be a problem.", Arion said, indicating that he was speaking about Marcus.
"He says he's Roman, and freeborn, but gives every indication that he's Greek, but is able to read and write Latin but, being Greek, speaks it with a strong Greek accent.", Arion explained.
Terentius nodded - looking closely and carefully at Marcus.
"He was caught by pirates making a passage from Piraeus to Brundisium.", Arion explained.
"There were Roman citizens on board, I believe - who died in the tussle when the pirates boarded the ship.
The boy is wearing a bulla, but I think he is the slave of the Roman couple who were killed, and he probably stole the bulla off the couple's young son. (a bulla was only worn by a boy who had not reached manhood)
Whether he killed the boy - maybe pushed him overboard - or the pirates killed the boy, I don't know - so we need to be careful with this one." Arion concluded - looking to Terentius for a response.
"Well, he's a fine figure of a boy - and you say he speaks Latin and Greek ?", Terentius queried.
"Yes, and he also reads and writes Greek and Latin.
I had him reading Homer and Virgil - and he definitely knew what he was reading !"Arion said.
"So - he will be expensive I think.", Terentius said, non-committally.
"Of course.
Tabulae Ceratae Diptycha
With a body like his, and good looks, many would want him for sex, but they would also have a slave they could talk to, as well as fuck, and he could read to them in the evenings, and eventually act a their scribus (secretary). Arion replied, being equally non-committal.
Terentius took from his tunic his tabula ceratae diptycha (double leaved wax tablet), and a stylus.
He then swiftly wrote a number on the pristine wax, and promptly snapped the  two leaves shut, and handed it to Arion.
Arion opened the tabula cerata, pursed his lips and shook his head.
Marcus watched them intently, but had no idea what they were doing - and that was not really surprising.
In actual fact they were 'stitching up' the following morning's auction.
Arion's auctioneer would take bids approaching to the price offered by Terentius, and then instantly accept Terentius' offer.
However, not wanting to cause any ill feeling or trouble with the other bidders, Terentius was now intending to make Arion an offer he simply could not refuse - as Terentius had almost unlimited resources - as we will discover later.....
Again Terentius entered a figure, and gave Arion the tabula cerata.
Arion opened the tabula.
"Done !", he said, instantly.
"So, let's drink on it !", Terentius said, and the two men shook hands.
Arion's interview with Marcus was effectively ended, and Marcus 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 Marcus breakfasted on olives, bread and cheese, and then were subjected to a long, but communal, bath, followed by a manicure of finger and toe nails, followed by a haircut, and a long and very oily massage.


'Slave Aucton' - By then it was lunch time, and after a light lunch the boys, and Marcus, 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.
Slave dealers usually sold their wares at public auctions, which were supervised by 'aediles' who ensured, on behalf of the state, that the rules and regulations regarding the sale of slaves were maintained.
A tax was imposed on imported slaves, such as Marcus 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. 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.
Slaves of unusual value (especially those of remarkable beauty) were sometimes offered at 'private' sales (rather than public auctions) to groups of probable buyers - and this is what had been organised for Marcus, and the other boys.
Arion, realising that Marcus was a slave of exceptional value, had insisted on a minimum bid, in gold, for the boy, and this meant that only the wealthiest buyers would even attempt to purchase him.
In the normal course of events it was likely that Marcus 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, Marcus 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.
The auctioneere entered first, and behind him came the troupe of boys, and coming last was Marcus.
All the slaves to be sold 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 Marcus' 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'.
Marcus was then brought forward.
Markos at the Slave Auction
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.
Of course,the auction had been 'stitched up' the previous evening by Arion and Terentius, so, seemingly unexpectedly, a youngish man, wearing a fine, dark red tunic, emblazoned with an elaborate emblem worked in gold bullion, who was standing at the back of an 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.
The startled auctioneer simply muttered 'sold', as two of Arion's slaves led Markos away through the ornate double doors, and back to Arion's atrium.
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' - Terentius, of course - by carriage from Brundisium, across Italy, to Baiae - the sea-side playground of the fabulously wealthy and jaded Roman aristocracy - where he is taken into one of the opulent and sumptuous villas of his new master....

(The Golden Villa)

Please note that this chapter contains sexually explicit and violent images and text. If you strongly object to any of these images please contact the blog author at and the offending material can be removed. Equally please do not view this chapter if such material may offend.

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