Chapter X - Qui Munera ad Augusti


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 vittoriocarvelli1997@gmail.com and the offending material can be removed. Equally please do not view this chapter if such material may offend.
   
Augustus will 'again set up the Golden Age amid the fields where Saturn once reigned, and shall spread his empire to a land that lies beyond the sun and the glittering stars, and beyond the paths of the years ..'
Virgil - (The Aeneid)

Panting and sweating, the slave-boy gymnasts lined up in front of the far end of the hall, where Gracchus sat, surrounded by his two guards, his slave-boy attendants and Markos.
The young, nude gymnasts bowed, - received a desultory wave from Gracchus, and some polite applause from the guests.
Gracchus then turned to Markos.
"Come !", he said, "I need to stretch my legs."
Markos put down the ornate, gilded wine jug, and followed his master.
As Gracchus rose from his seat, the other guests rose, as a sign of respect.
Gracchus then left the hall by a carefully concealed side-door, located by one of the large marble pillars, with Markos dutifully following.
The door led into yet another one of those secretive corridors, the existence of which was totally unknown the Markos, and perhaps to many others, who daily worked in the vast, opulent, labyrinthine villa.
The corridor led to yet another door.
Preparations for the Munera
Gracchus opened it, and strode in.
Surprisingly, for Markos, the room was an 'apodyterium' (changing room) - in this case reserved for the young gladiators who were to take part in the Munera.
The room contained six young gladiators - plus a number of slaves who were attending to them.
One of the boys was having oil rubbed into his shoulders and chest, while two others were having leather body harnesses buckled and adjusted.
Two of the lads, including the boys being oiled, were stark naked.
The other boys already had on brief thongs, along with arm-guards - and all wore Gracchus' silver slave collars - they were all Gracchus' boys.
As soon as Gracchus entered all the boys stopped talking, stopped their preparation, and bowed their heads in recognition of their master's presence.
"Boys - ", Gracchus began, very formally.
"In a few moments you will be taking part in a 'munera'.
Please bear in mind that this is not simply a combat, but a religious duty - a duty for the well being of the genius of the Divine Augustus, whose birthday we celebrate today.
Fight well, and fight hard.
If you are defeated, then take it as the will of the gods, and offer yourself manfully and willingly.
Sacrifice your manhood and your blood with dignity - as befits the fact that - regardless of  your origins, or the fact that you are slaves - when you come to be sacrificed, you represent the best of Rome, the Empire and the Roman People."
In response the six 'bustuarii' (the ancient term for the fighters in a 'munera' - from the Latin bustum - meaning 'tomb' or a 'funeral pyre') all saluted Gracchus.
Now it must be remembered here, that the rhetoric about 'offering yourself manfully and willingly', is usually found in Roman dissertations on the morally uplifting aspects of gladiatorial combat.
Interestingly, as there is only one written account of a genuine gladiatorial contest in the whole of Latin literature, it is more than likely that fighters rarely 'offered themselves manfully and willingly', having been defeated, and would quite naturally plead and cry for mercy before being mutilated and 'finished off'.
And this is, of course what happened in the 'munera', and usually happened in Gracchus' arena, despite all the fine words and sentiment.
After giving his brief 'pep' talk to the 'bustuarii', Gracchus then took Petronus to one side for a few private words.

ORIGINS of the MUNERA
The 'munera gladiatoria' originated with Rome's Campanian (southern) or Etruscan (northern) neighbours. The usual explanation for the Munera was that it was an Etruscan custom of making human sacrifices to celebrate the death of a nobleman, in order to appease the spirit of the dead. The theory of the Romans adopting the 'munera' from their Etruscan neighbour seems eminently credible because of the evidence and information supporting it, and it is the origin which was believed by the Romans themselves.
For example, although there are representations of bloody combat from both Etruria and Campania, the physical remains from Etruria exist earlier by a century or more.
Campania was colonised by Greeks, and was part of 'Magna Græcia' (Greater Greece). During the Roman era, the area maintained a Greco-Roman culture. Campania is rich in culture, especially in regard to gastronomy, music, architecture, and boasts such towns as Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum and Velia, and of course Baiae (the site of Gracchus' villa), and Cumae. The name of Campania itself is derived from Latin, as the Romans knew the region as 'Campania felix', which translates into English as "fertile countryside". 
In addition, when the surviving written records from the Roman period mention early 'munera' they are given an Etruscan flavour. Furthermore, a slain gladiator was removed from the fighting area by a man dressed as the Etruscan death-demon 'Charon'.
Charon
Also, the Romans imported their ideas of the afterlife from Etruria.
Finally, it has been ascertained that the Latin word for a trainer of gladiator is derived from the Etruscan language.
The justification for the Munera, it appears, was that combat served a more positive function than direct human sacrifice that had been practice in the past.
Even though killing still occurred, at least the victor came out of the ritual alive. The Munera, therefore were at first a part of religion and magic, though later on these features became less apparent and were almost forgotten, as the Munera was transformed into the Roman  'Ludi' (Gladiatorial Games).

 THE  MUNERA  OF  GRACCHUS

Here at the Villa Auri, Gracchus had re-instated a true Munera, dedicated to the deceased Emperor - the Divine Augustus
Novius
In order to provide 'authenticity' to the re-enactment of an ancient custom, Gracchus had employed the services of his old friend, Novius (we will meet with Novius later, when he helps to solve the mystery of the prophecy of the Sibyl).
Novius claimed descent from the ancient Etruscan priesthood, and was learned in Etruscan ritual, and an expert on the Ertruscan and Oscan languages.
Etruscan was the spoken and written language of the Etruscan civilization, in Italy, in the ancient region of Etruria (modern Tuscany plus western Umbria and northern Latium) and in parts of Campania, Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna (where the Etruscans were displaced by Gauls). Etruscan influenced Latin, but was eventually completely superseded by it. Attested from 700 BC to AD 50, the language is not related to any living language; attempts to classify its origins and relations have continued for centuries. Grammatically, the language is agglutinating, with nouns and verbs showing suffixed inflectional endings and ablaut in some cases. Etruscan religion influenced that of the Romans and many of the few surviving Etruscan language artifacts are of votive or religious significance. Etruscan was written in an alphabet derived from the Greek alphabet; this alphabet was the source of the Latin alphabet. The Etruscan language is also believed to be the source of certain important cultural words of Western Europe such as 'military' and 'people', which do not have obvious Indo-European roots.
As with the ancient form of Munera, at the end of each fight the loser would be sacrificed over the gilded bronze krater set by the steps at the far end of the banqueting hall.
Gilde Bronze Krater
According to many scholars ancient ceramic kraters (large pots - normally intended for mixing wine) imitated shapes designed originally for metal. Among the largest and most famous metal kraters in antiquity were one in the possession of the Samian tyrant Polycrates, and another one dedicated by Croesus to the Delphic oracle. Their main production centres were Sparta, Argos and Corinth, in Peloponnesus. The Vix bronze crater, found in a Celtic tomb in central France is the largest known Greek krater, being 1.63 m in height and over 200 kg in weight. The use of bronze kraters was introduced into Italy by the Etruscans, and formed an essential part of sacrificial ritual. In Imperial times (when our story is set) patricians would often have bronze kraters gilded.
Sacrifice to deities of the heavens (di superi, "gods above") required white, infertile victims of their own sex: Juno a white heifer (possibly a white cow); Jupiter a white, castrated ox (bos mas) - however, 'Di superi', with strong connections to the earth, such as Mars, Janus, Neptune, were offered fertile victims.
For this reason, a sacrifice to the 'Divine Augustus', being 'Di superi', required that a losing fighter be castrated before his blood was spilled into the sacrificial krater.
The Munera that Gracchus was celebrating was a revival of a 'mos maiorum' - and 'ancestral custom'.
The 'customs of the ancestors' was and aspect of Roman culture which was of particular concern to Gracchus - for he felt that the neglect of such customs had been a contributing factor to what he saw as the recent the decline of the Roman state.
For this 'Munera' the slaves taking part in the fighting - who were known as 'bustuarii' (from the Latin bustum - meaning 'tomb' or a 'funeral pyre') - rather than gladiators, were 'kitted out' in white and black liveries.
Three boys wore white thongs, leg and arm guards, and gloves.
Three of the boys wore black thongs, leg and arm guards, and gloves.
If there was any significance in the choice of these two colours, non of the guest was aware of it.
It was announced by Terentius - who was acting as master of ceremonies - that each contest would be fought white against black - and to the death of one or both combatants.
In the case of this reconstruction by Gracchus of an ancient 'Munera', the weapon, (gladius), used by each fighter was specially designed.
Flanged Gladius
The two cutting edges of the blade were blunted, and the sharp, pointed tip was fitted, a short distance up the blade (from the tip), with a metal flange.
The purpose of the flange was to prevent the blade from penetrating deeply enough to cause any serious injury, while at the same time creating a superficial wound, accompanied by a copious blood flow (such blades were used by the presenters of 'Games', when they wanted to minimize gladiator losses, and were justly unpopular with Roman audiences - and were also used in the later stages of gladiator training).
Charon
The fight itself would continue until one or more such wounds had been inflicted.
The fighter showing the most bleeding would then be declared the loser, disarmed, and stripped.
Etruscan Priests Sacrificing Over a Krater
He would then be castrated by the supervising slaves, (as was required for a sacrifice to deities of the heavens - di superi, "gods above" - see above), and then dragged over to the sacrificial krater.
There, the slave dressed as Charon would stun the the defeated fighter, (who was being held with his head over the gilded krater), with a heavy wooden mallet, in the same way that large sacrificial animals were stunned, prior to being sacrificially slain.
The partially unconscious, castrated fighter would then be decapitated and, while his blood poured from his neck into the krater, his head would be lifted high by his hair to be shown the assembled guests.
In this way, Gracchus maintained all the accepted rules and rituals for a legitimate religious sacrifice.

    
DE  PUGNIS
    
Like many 'gladiatorial' contests, these fights were 'fixed'.
This may surprise aficionados of the 'media', (Films, TV and the like), which feature 'gladiators', but it would be a very foolish 'lanista' who risked losing his best fighters because of some accidental slip, stoke of bad-luck, or 'off day'.
It was the 'lanista' who provided his troupe of gladiators for sale or hire to the producer of the show. A reviled figure in Roman literature, compared by Martial with libellous informers and liars, the 'lanista' was 'infamis', and regarded as both a butcher (lanius), and a pimp (leno), because he traded in humans for profit. Gracchus, in our story is in an unusual position. Technically he owns all the slaves who appear and work in his arena. He then 'lends' the slaves to his freedmen, who allocate certain of these 'lent' slaves to 'senior slaves' (such as Pretonius), who train, manage an discipline the slaves. The slaves in question, who appear in the arena are both male and female, and are not only gladiators, wrestlers and boxers, but also singers, instrumentalists, actors, dancers and mimes.
Good gladiators, especially if they were good looking, as well as being strong and skilful were literally worth their weight in gold.
It was therefore financially essential to ensure that some valuable individuals, while they might appear in the arena because they were a great attraction for the audience, would be protected form injury and/or death.
To take part in what was, in effect, a sacrifice, required the consent of the participants.
When sacrificing animals, the sprinkling of the victim's head with water (or 'mola salsa' - see below) would cause the animal to nod or bow its head, which was perceived as a gesture of acceptance.
In ancient Roman religion, 'mola salsa' ("salted flour") was a mixture of coarse-ground, toasted emmer flour and salt used in every official sacrifice. It was sprinkled on the forehead, and between the horns of animal victims before they were sacrificed, as well as on the altar and in the sacred fire. It was a common offering to the household hearth. The substance was described as 'pius' ('reverently prepared' in this sense) and 'castus' ('ritually pure'). The 'mola salsa' was so fundamental to sacrifice that 'to put on the mola' (Latin 'immolare') came to mean 'to sacrifice', hence English 'immolation'. Its use was one of the numerous religious traditions ascribed to Etruscan tradition.
Naturally, animals were not always fully cooperative, but in principle, the victim had to indicate its consent, particularly by lowering its head.
For this reason, it would generally be tied by a harness fastened to a ring at the foot of the altar so that, with a little help from the sacrificer, it would make the gesture of acquiescence.
Once the victim showed its submission, the knife was finally uncovered, a few hairs from the animal's head were shorn off with it and thrown into the altar fire.
It was for the reasons described above that the six boys were required to consent (supposedly of their own 'free will') to taking part in the 'Munera ad Augustum'.
In reality, of course, being slaves, they had very little choice in the matter.

for more information about Roman Sacrifice and the Roman Games go to:
ROMAN GAMES and SACRIFICE
(link not yet operative)
but don't forget to come back
Gracchus had carefully selected the three slave-boys who were to loose their fight and be sacrificed, or equally, one might say, he had selected the slave-boys who would survive the 'Munera'.
Petronius; not only one of Gracchus favourites, but also an important individual, involved in the planning and preparations of presentations in Gracchus' arena, would obviously survive.
He had been matched against Valentius - a young gladiator who had not proved himself during his training period.
Slow and 'dim-witted', if he was not killed in the 'Munera', then he would undoubtedly be killed in his first fight.
Gracchus therefore thought it best to let the boy be a sacrifice, and it least in that way he might prove himself of some value.
A young lad called Asper had been matched against Durus.
For  this fight Durus had 'drawn the short straw', so to speak, and was destined to be killed.
Ferox
For the final fight Atticus had been matched against Ferox.
Ferox was a good, 'up and coming fighter'.
Atticus
Atticus, however, while a good swordsman, was ill-disciplined and unruly, being appallingly over-sexed, and making himself a constant nuisance to the younger slave-boys.
Gracchus had therefore decided that it would be best to be rid of him, and while he could have easily sold the boy, (Gracchus did not like selling 'bad' slaves, as the buyers would probably be dissatisfied, and his reputation as a respected dealer would be damaged), it seemed more appropriate, and better for his reputation  to have the hot-blood of the young 'buck' used in the sacrifice.
Being castrated before his decapitation, would also seem to be appropriate for such an obviously 'over-sexed' young lad.
Once the boys were fully 'kitted out', the attending slaves, plus three freedmen lined up to process into the banqueting hall, via the main, double doors.
On their way they collected a couple of cornicenes (trumpeters), courtesy of Tribune Marcellus, and a pair of priests.
In this way, they formed a small 'pompa', although, being a 'proper' munera, this 'pompa' would have none of the elaboration to be seen in Gracchus' arena, and would be nothing like the 'over-blown' shows put on in Rome.

for more information about the 'Pompa' go to
MARCUS ET GLADIATORES
(link not yet operative)
but remember to come back

The six teenage gladiators, along with the members of the 'pompa' entered the reception hall, to the subdued applause of the guests.
As this was a 'munera' - a religious rite, not further applause, cheering, or noise of any kind was then permitted.
It was then the turn of the priests to make a petitionary prayer to 'ingenium Divi Augustus' (the 'genius' of the Divine Augustus), and sprinkle the boys' heads with sacred water from the Temple of Apollo at Cumae.
'Mola salsa' was then sprinkled on each boy's hair, and the boys bowed towards the raised area where Gracchus was seated in front of the bust of 'Divi Auguustus' (the Divine Augustus).
The bow symbolised their willingness to accept the fact that they would be sacrificed if they lost the fight.
The four 'bustuarii' who were not fighting yet then left the banqueting hall, as it was not considered advisable for them to witness the possible fate that awaited them.

Note - if you don't like reading explicit descriptions of sex violence, 
then you are advised to scroll down to the next section -
Munera Epicinium - Aftermath of the Munera' 

PRIMA PVGNA

'First Combat' - The supervising slaves then moved to the sides of the banqueting hall, and two slaves brought in swords, one of which was given to each of the 'bustuarii' (Munera gladiators) who were to begin the 'Munera'.
Petronius
Valens
One of the swords was not only flanged, but was also blunted at the tip, and was given to Valentius, so Petronius was almost certain to win this fight, and Valentius would be killed.
As soon as the fight began it was obvious that Petronius was the superior swordsman.
It was equally obvious that Valentius' blade had been blunted.
While Petronius' jabs had drawn blood on Valentius' belly and chest, none of Valentius' jabs had any effect on Petronius.
By then, although as intended, Valentius had not sustained any serious injury, he was declared the loser by the senior supervising slave, and ordered to give up his gladius.
Valentius had no choice, and handed over the useless sword.
At this point young Bellus came forward.
So who was Bellus ?
Bellus
Bellus was a new young slave, who had been given the Latin name 'Bellus' by Gracchus. 'Bellus' is Latin slang for 'cute'. The boy was to be used as an 'arena-slave', that is a slave who took part in events in the arena, but not as an actual performer. His role was a little different to an 'amphitheater worker', who was a slave who was involved in cleaning, maintenance, construction etc. Arena slaves often made contact with performers in the arena, and on most occasions were involved in supervising and/or assisting events in the arena. As such they were require to appear in the arena itself, in the presence of the audience. They were therefore required to be attractive, and normally wore a uniform of  black leather braccae (what we would call trousers or breeches) black leather cross-belts and studded black leather wrist-guards, with exposed arms and upper body. 'Bellus', because he was so youthful-looking and 'cute', was being trained to perform actions intended to humiliate defeated combatants in the arena - for example tying up individuals, and applying mild forms of torture. Eventually he would be required to emasculate and rape defeated combatants before the were 'finished off' by their opponents, but that would be in the future, when he was older, and if he proved himself suitable.
In this Munera, it was Bellus' job (possibly with some assistance from an older, more experience slave) to tie the hands of the defeated 'bustuari' behind his back.
This was easy for Bellus, as by this point Valentius (usualy known as Valens) had effectively 'given up'.
Meanwhile, Petronius, completely unmarked from the combat, stood and watched.
Bellus then untied Valentius' thong.
Valentius looked shocked as the cute young boy untied the chords that secured the brief loincloth.
He had obviously not realized the actuality of what was happening to him, but could do nothing as the bulging pouch dropped away, revealing a leather harness which was combined with a silver ring.
It was basically a leather thong, with a hole in the front, - the hole edged with a silver ring, from which poked  Valentius' bulky genitals.
Above the silver ring, and covering his pubic 'bush', was a triangle of leather, attached to which were four, thin horizontal straps, which secured his thick penis in an upright position.
The combination of silver ring round the root of his genitals, and straps round his penis, of course, had given the lad a sizeable erection.
His erect penis was held vertically, and what the Romans called the 'glans' (acorn) was exposed.
Valens Bound
For the Romans, who were all uncircumcised, the exposure of the 'glans' was the greatest obscenity imaginable, and therefore the greatest humiliation - and in addition, Valentius was so excited that 'preseminal fluid' ('pre cum') was dribbling from his 'meatus' (literally passage or pathway).
The purpose of this leather harness, however, was not to create an erection, or to humiliate the wearer, but was rather to completely expose the boy's scrotum, containing his testicles, in order to make it simple and easy for the supervising slaves to castrate him.
Bellus and his companion then forced the shocked and exposed boy down onto his knees.
The older slave then brought out a knife from a leather scabbard at his side, while Bellus watched, fascinated.
"No ! Please !", Valentius groaned quietly. "Not my balls !...... Not my bollocks !...".
The slave with the knife reached down, and as he did so Valentius' cock swelled and stiffened.
The slave grasped the boy's well filled, shaved scrotum.
"Oh !..... No !....", Valentius sighed as, looking down at his now fully erect penis and, unable to help himself, his creamy seed shot up, splashing his chin, and then splattered over his heaving, sweaty chest and belly.
As he squirted his semen, the knife cut through his bulging, hairless scrotum, removing his testicles,  - instantly making him a 'eunuch'.
His plump, shaved, and now bloody scrotum fell to the marble floor, and blood started spurting from his mutilated crotch.
"Oh fuck !", he grunted, realizing that he was about to be killed, while he slumped down onto his back, with his legs jerking spasmodically.
Valentius' penis had by then shrivelled, and it was easy for young Bellus, who had been holding him, to remove the now soft, still dribbling penis from the leather harness, which he then unbuckled and stripped from the castrated young 'bustuari'.
The two slaves together then turned Valentius over onto his belly.
"Shit ! I've got no balls......!" Valentius moaned quietly, as he was flopped over onto the cold marble floor
Having just been castrated,  Valentius couldn't use his legs, so the slaves dragged the naked, mutilated fighter on his belly, over to the gilded bronze krater.
As the slaves dragged the groaning young 'bustuari' over to the krater, with his legs trailing behind him, and occasionally twitching, he left a trail of blood from his mutilated groin.
Charon
At the same time, a sinister figure entered the banqueting hall.
He was wearing black leather, like the other supervising slaves but, in addition, he was wearing the mask of the Etruscan 'daemonem' Charon (Karun), and was carrying a hammer.
In Etruscan mythology, Charon acted as 'psychopompoi' of the underworld.
The Etruscan Charon was fundamentally different from his Greek counterpart. Guarding the entry to the underworld he is depicted with a hammer (his religious symbol), and is shown with pointed ears, heavy brow ridges, snakes around his arms, and a blueish coloration symbolizing the decay of death, large lips, fiery eyes,  and snakes around his arm. There are examples, on the sarcophagus of Laris Pulenas, as well as a red figure stamnos from Orbetello, that illustrate Charun in a menacing fashion, depicting him threatening a male figure with his hammer. Much later, in Rome, a figure based on Charon, called Dispater, would strike the loser of a combat with a heavy hammer. Charon's task at the Munera, therefore, was to strike the loser with the hammer, so that he would be partially stunned, and therefore unlikely to resist the fatal cut. Such resistance would be considered a bad omen, and possibly invalidate the sacrifice, which would then have to be repeated.
The slave, who had been responsible for castrating Valentius, picked up the defeated fighter's bloody, severed scrotum, and followed the slaves, who were dragging the body over to the krater.
While the trembling, twitching body of Valentius was draped over the krater, with his head centred on the 'mouth' of the large vessel, the slave with the defeated fighter's testicles dropped them onto the marble floor beside the terrified lad.
Valens - About to be Decapitated
Later the severed scrotum would be put into into a bronze bowl - the bowl supported by a gilded tripod, standing close to the krater.
Charun now stood over the naked, mutilated young 'bustuari'.
"Please !....", Valentius groaned, helplessly.
The priests took that a auguring well, indicating that the victim was consenting to being sacrificed, and nodded to 'Charon' to strike the boy.
In fact Valentius was probably begging for mercy, but that was neither here not there, as 'Charon' swung his hammer, stunning the boy with a heavy blow.
The slave who had performed the castration then went over to Valentius with a sword, and pulled the young lad's head up by his hair.
 Valentius, who was already spraying urine from his fat, limp, dangling penis down onto the marble floor, starred pitifully up to where Gracchus was sitting, with Markos standing beside him, in front of the gilded bust of Augustus.
The slave, holding his head up by his hair, then sliced through his neck, decapitating the naked boy.
Valens Decapitated
Valentius farted loudly, and his headless body jerked convulsively, with his legs twitching uncontrollably for a few moments, as his blood gushed from his severed neck into the krater.
Then the castrated, headless lad went completely limp.
Valentius head was initially place on the ornate floor,close to his severed testicles
The two slaves who had been holding him then lifted the naked corpse off the krater, and turned the bleeding body over, onto it's back, while 'Charun' held up Valentius' severed head.
The young lad's final expression was one of pleading shock, with its mouth open, and eyes staring wide.
Petronius had seen enough; and turned to leave the banqueting hall, but a slave approached him to tell him that Gracchus wished to personally congratulate him.


SECVNDO PUGNA

'Second Combat' - After the conclusion of the first fight, and the resulting sacrifice, there was a faint hum of conversation from the assembled guests.
At this point Terentius escorted an older, grey haired and bearded figure into the banqueting hall.
The guest watched intently - many of them recognising the refined figure, who nodded acknowledgement to some of the guests.
Novius
This was Novius.
Delayed in Rome on business, he had travelled by carriage 'post-haste' to the villa in order to be present for the 'munera' whic he had done much to organise.
Terentius took Novius up to be greeted by Gracchus, who greeted his old friend warmly.
Terentius then gave a specially reserved place to one who was, effectively, a guest of honour.
Meanwhile, the next two 'bustuarii' were ushered into the banqueting hall.
Durus
These boys were Asper and Durus.
Duruss, although he did not know it, was the boy to be sacrificed.
Undoubtedly the guests would have been hoping that he would be the victor, as he was undoubtedly the the most attractive out of the two boys.
Again, two slaves brought in swords, one of which was given to each of the 'bustuarii' who were to fight in the 'Munera', and it was Durus who got the blunted sword.
The fight unfolded very much as the previous fight had - although in the 'Munera', unlike the 'Ludi', it was the sacrifice that was important, and not the fight.
Durus, of course, lost, which disappointed many of the guests.
Like Valentius, he was wearing an elaborate leather thong, with a silver ring, and straps holding his penis upright.
Being younger than Valentius, he had much less pubic hair, and relatively small genitals, however, his scrotum was bulging and well filled, and was an easy target for the slave who was responsible for castrating the helpless' bustuari.
"Oh shit !", was all the lad quietly grunted, as the supervising slave pulled at his scrotum, causing Durus to involuntarily 'ejaculate'.
The slave, showing consideration for the young 'bustuari', allowed the naked boy's orgasm to subside. A second later the boy, with semen dribbling down his belly onto his neat little 'bush', loudly squealed "Fuck !", as the knife cut away his testicles.
His severed scrotum, containing his testicles, was finally lying in a small pool of blood on the marble floor of the banqueting hall.
The slaves then quickly unstrapped the complex, leather thong from the naked boy's penis and crotch. At that point his legs were convulsively twitching, and his delicately lashed eyelids were fluttering. 
As young Durus appeared to have fainted, it was therefore an easy matter for the slaves to drag him over to the krater.
'Charun', realising that the mutilated, naked boy was barely conscious, saw no need to stun him, and just gave the lad's head a symbolic tap with his hammer.
Durus grunted, and then in a few seconds, his pretty little head had been sliced from his body.
At that point, as a slave lifted the dead boy's head for all the guests to see, the only sounds that could be heard was the sound of Durus' blood splashing down into the already partly filled krater, and the sound of his urine splattering onto the marble floor.
Asper, looking as if the fate that Durus had undergone had shocked him, quietly left the banqueting hall.
Meanwhile Durus' corpse was pulled off the krater.
He was turned over onto his back, and laid beside Valentius, while a slave added Durus' testicles to those of Valentius, which were already in the bronze bowl mounted on the tripod.
Novius nodded appreciatively to Gracchus, please to see that the sacrifice had been carried out in accordance with Etruscan tradition.


TERTIA PVGNA
  
'Third Combat' - The final combat of the 'Munera' was between Atticus and Ferox.
This proceeded like the previous two fights.
The two 'bustuarii' were ushered into the banqueting hall, and this time it was Atticus who was to be the boy to be sacrificed.
Again, two slaves brought in swords, one of which was given to each of the 'bustuarii' who were to fight in the 'Munera', however, quite by accident (?), it was Ferox who got the blunted sword.
The mistake (presuming it was just a mistake), became obvious very early on in the fight, with Ferox unable to make a mark on Atticus, while Ferox himself was very soon bleeding quite profusely.
Gracchus was furious - as he had wanted to be rid of Atticus for some time - but there was nothing that he could do.
This was a 'munera', and as such a religious rite, and no one could interfere, or intervene, in the proceedings.
Atticus, however, was grinning from ear to ear, realizing that he had undoubtedly won.
And so Ferox was declared the loser by the senior supervising slave, and ordered to give up his gladius.
Poor Ferox had no choice. "It's not fair !", he grumbled, confidentially to the senior supervising slave, "I should have won !".
However, he had no option but to and hand over his useless gladius.
At the same time two slaves came up behind him, grabbed his arms, and tied them behind his back.
Atticus then handed his own gladius over to the slave who usually dealt with the castration of the loser and, without so much as a 'by your leave', took over.
"Let's see what you've got in there !", he said quietly to poor Ferox, who was tied up and held by two of the arena slaves.
With that he untied the cords of Ferox's loincloth, to expose the leather harness which was holding the boy's penis vertically.
There was very little need for the straps, however, as Ferox was massively erect.
"Let's have the knife !", Atticus said to the arena slave who was accompanying him.
Somewhat reluctantly the arena slave gave the blustering young fighter the knife used for the castrations.
Atticus then grabbed hold of Ferox's hefty scrotum, which was poking out of the silver ring of the harness, along with his huge, engorged penis.
"No ! Please !", Ferox groaned, looking down at his huge penis, which was already dribbling clear liquid down the shaft and into his pubic hair .
Atticus squeezed and twisted the helpless boy's scrotum.
"Shit ! NO !....My fuckin' balls !", Ferox moaned, and then squirted his 'seed'.
The first spurt hit his chin, and the rest splattered over his chest and belly.
As he was ejaculating, Atticus pulled the knife up from the root of the squirming boy's hairless scrotum.
Ferox's hefty testicles came away in Atticus hand, and he handed the knife back to the slave standing beside him.
"What's it feel like, Ferox !", Atticus asked quietly, dropping the boy's severed testicles onto the marble floor.
Looking down at his bleeding, mutilated crotch, Ferox said nothing, but just groaned, as he sank to the marble floor, with blood running down the inside of his muscular, twitching thighs.
While Atticus watched, the slaves stripped Ferox, now a helpless eunuch, of his leather thong, and dragged the totally naked, castrated boy over to the gilded bronze krater.
"Oh God !", Ferox groaned, obviously appalled at the prospect of his imminent death.
The priests, however, conveniently interpreted it as a good omen, and encouraged 'Charun' to incapacitated the lad before anything could go wrong.
A swift, hard blow to Ferox's skull, knocked young Ferox out 'cold', and a slave swiftly decapitated the already urinating lad.
Ferox's severed head, with its gaping mouth, was then held up by one of the slave, much to Gracchus' annoyance.
Meanwile, Ferox's naked, headless corpse was pulled off the krater.
He was turned over onto his back, and laid beside Durus and Valentius, while a slave added Ferox's testicles to those of Durus and Valentius, which were already in the bronze bowl mounted on the tripod.

MVNERA EPICINIVM

'Aftermath of the Munera' - The bloody and violent Munera itself was at an end.
The naked and mutilated bodies of the slain fighters were then dragged out of the banqueting hall, feet first.
The mosaic and marble floor washed.
At the same time the krater, now nearly filled with fresh blood, and the bowl, containing the six testicles from the three boys, which was mounted on the ornate tripod, were removed from the banqueting hall.
Then, a group of ten young slave boys, all decorously dressed in white, entered by the main doors to the reception hall, accompanied by Lucius, (Markos' Latin tutor) - dressed in his finest white toga, and bearing in his hands a rolled parchment.
The boys stood in a line, and sang a short choral ode to the memory of the 'Divine Augustus'.
Lucius then stepped forward, cleared his throat, and bowed to Gracchus.
"Here now is the 'Res Gestae Divi Augusti'.", he proclaimed rather grandly.

He then began his reading from the parchment:

RES GESTAE DIVI AVGVSTI 
Octavian Augustus
'Res Gestae Divi Augusti' (The Deeds of the Divine Augustus) is the funerary inscription of the first Roman emperor, Octavian Augustus, giving a first-person record of his life and accomplishments.
The Res Gestae is especially significant because it gives an insight into the image Augustus portrayed to the Roman people.
The statement is grouped in four sections, political career, public benefactions, military accomplishments and a political statement.
Augustus left the text with his will, which instructed the Senate to set up the inscriptions.
The original was engraved upon a pair of bronze pillars, and placed in front of Augustus' mausoleum. 
Lucius' reading of the 'Res Gestae Divi Augusti', and his Latin, were flawless, and there followed some polite applause.
Politics in Rome, at the time of our story were complex and devious.
For many years Gracchus, despite being a senior senator (mainly because of his wealth and lineage), had kept a very low profile during the reigns of Tiberius and Caligula.
Emperor Claudius
He had been a little more active during the reign of Claudius (an Emperor who shared Gracchus' and Novius deep interest in all things related to the Etruscans, and the traditions of the early Republic, but after the first few years of the reign of the emperor Nero, Gracchus had hidden away in his villa at Baiae, and his properties in Greece.
Emperor Nero
At this point, however, Gracchus saw that Nero's reign must soon come to an end, and so he took this opportunity to make a veiled and subtle criticism of the now increasingly unpopular Emperor.
Veiled - because Nero's name was not mentioned once, and subtle because those who had 'ears to hear'  would easily make a comparison between the monumental achievements of the Divine Augustus, and the chaotic reign of Nero.
In holding a munera for the 'ingenium Divi Augustus', a reading of the 'Res Gestae Divi Augusti', Gracchus was holding up an example of a true 'Princeps' - and Nero, in no way could measure up to that example.
All the guests realised what Gracchus was doing - but, veiled and subtle, it was still a dangerous statement to make if Gracchus had mistimed his move.

SVNT AVGURIIS ET FVNERIS

(The Omens and Funeral Rites) While the 'Res Gestae Divi Augusti' was being read, each of the three headless boys had his belly slit open and, having been being deftly disembowelled, had his liver removed and examined by one of the priests, who was a haruspex - and in this case supervised by Novius.
This was 'de rigeur' if a sacrifice was to be legitimate.
In the Roman religion, a haruspex (plural haruspices; also called aruspex) was a person trained to practice a form of divination called haruspicy (haruspicina); the inspection of the entrails (exta), hence also extispicy (extispicium) of sacrificed animals. The reading of omens specifically from the liver is also known by the Greek term hepatoscopy (also hepatomancy). The Roman concept is directly derived from Etruscan religion, as one of the three branches of the 'disciplina Etrusca' - much beloved on Novius. The art of haruspicy was taught in the 'Libri Tagetici', a collection of texts attributed to Tages, a childlike being, who figures in Etruscan mythology. The Libri Tagetici were translated into Latin and employed in reading omens. The continuity of the Etruscan tradition among the Romans is indicated by several ancient literary sources, perhaps most famously in the incident related by Suetonius in which a haruspex named Spurinna warned Julius Caesar to beware the Ides of March. The emperor Claudius (who reigned just prior to this to this story), was a student of the Etruscan language and antiquities, and opened a college to preserve and improve their art. 
Fortunately the livers of all the three boys exhibited excellent omens.
If they had not, then the whole 'Munera' would have had to be repeated.
The bodies, (including the head and genitals), of the three boy were then given funerals, late that same night, in the grounds of the villa In accordance with the 'mos maiorum' (the 'traditions of the ancestors'), the body of each boy was washed, and anointed.
The liver was replaced, and the slit belly was sewn up.
The head and the scrotum were then sewn back onto the body, so that the boy could enter the afterlife 'whole'.
An 'obol' (coin) was placed in the mouth of each boy, for Charon - who would ferry them over the Styx to the 'afterworld'..
The bodies were then each dressed in a white tunic of expensive, imported cotton.
The bodies were then carried on a gilt wood bier, and they were followed by a group of slaves who had been known to the lads during their time at the villa.
Petronius, Asper and Markos were among the mourners, but predictably Atticus did not attend. (Markos had not known Durus, Valentius or Ferox, but as Petronius had asked him to attend the funerals, he felt obliged).
None of the freedmen or Gracchus attended as this was a funeral for slaves.
The funeral itself was paid for by Gracchus (this was unusual, as gladiators would normally have to 'club together' to pay for funeral arrangements, and the bodies of slaves were often simply discarded - at Baiae often thrown into the sea.).
While the funeral pyres were burning a libation of the finest wine, and expensive, imported incense was sprinkled over the flames.
Finally, when the funeral piles burned down, more fine wine was used to douse the embers, so that the ashes could be gathered and placed in funerary urns.
On Gracchus orders, the extremely expensive marble funeral urns were then retained in the villa, and were later placed in a shrine to the Divine Augustus, that Gracchus had later built in one of the smaller atria of the villa.
Muraena
To the modern reader the treatment of the slave-boys at Gracchus' 'munera' might seem reprehensible.  It must be remembered, however, that under Roman law a master had 'potestatem vitae et mortis', (the power of life and death) over his slaves. He could execute his slaves, although it was generally accepted that this should only be done for good reason. The case of Publius Vedius Pollio, who lived some time before Gracchus, is a case in point. When his slaves displeased him, he had them fed to muraenas, that he maintained for that purpose - and it is significant that his 'friend', the Princeps Augustus, stepped in and forbade the practice, and publicly repudiated Pollio.
Gracchus' treatment of the slave-boys at the 'munera' would be seen at the time as perfectly correct.
Atticus
In principle they had been offered the opportunity to take part in the 'munera', and had apparently consented of the own free will.
The 'munera' itself was not seen as a cruel 'entertainment', but as a religious rite, undertaken on behalf of the community, and the defeated boys were sacrificed in strict accordance with the ritual requirements of 'Romanae religionem'.
Subsequently, the boys who had been sacrificed were provided with the required (and very lavish), funeral rites, all paid for by Gracchus, on behalf of the community.
The only individual who was open to any criticism, in Roman eyes, was the slave-boy Atticus - who may well have been responsible for the switching of the gladius at the 'munera', and who, equally reprehensibly, had not attended the funeral ceremonies of the three, dead boys - and of course, Gracchus would 'deal' with Atticus at a later date.


POST FESTVM

(After the Banquet) But back to the 'convivium' - Gracchus then rose from his seat, and accompanied by his 'entourage' (including Markos), and Novius and Terentius, he walked down the centre of the hall - spoke briefly to Lucius, and then left the hall - leaving his guests to finish their conversations and meal, and later take their leave.
Meanwhile, Terentius relieved Markos of the exquisite, and expensive, wine jug that Markos had been carrying throughout the evening as 'cup-bearer', and told him to go and assist young Glykon at the main entrance to the villa.
And so ended the Banquet at the Villa Auri - held to commemorate the birthday of the late Emperor , the Divine Octavian Augustus - the first Princeps.
It may seem very strange to the modern reader that a banquet could be held that would involve eating and drinking, a sexually explicit performance by naked slave-boys, followed by three bloody gladiatorial fights to the death, and then the performance of a choral hymn to the memory of a dead Emperor, and a long, flowery, (and mainly political) recitation.
Such a series of entertainments at a banquet for members of elite Roman society were not, however, unusual, and are attested to by numerous literary and historical sources - and, in fact, much stranger 'goings on' regularly occurred at many a high class 'convivium' (feast or party).
Markos, however, was disturbed by what he had witnessed.
He had never seen anything so strange, and so violent in his whole, short, life, and it brought back to him memories of the horrors of the pirate attack.
After the guests had left, and Glykon no longer needed him, he was approached by Petronius, who had been one of the 'bustuarii' at the 'munera'.
"You look worried.....", Petronius said.
Can I be of any help ?"
"I'm just a bit shocked at what happened.", Markos said, lamely.
"You're Markos, aren't you ?", Petronius said gently.
Markos nodded.
"Then why not come with me ?", Petronius said, smiling.
"We're going to give the boys who were sacrificed a good send off - and then we can share a flask of wine."
Markos only had his lonely cubiculum to go to - so he thought - 'why not ?' - and he did like Petronius, although it was the first time that they have ever spoken.


and the story continues
'first - find out what happened after the 'munera' !
Then it's a matter of rumours about Markos and Gracchus swirling around the villa, but they are nothing compared to what is happening in the outside world as the Roman Empire totters on the verge of collapse, - and Gracchus consults the Sibyl at Cumae, in a desperate attempt to find out what the future may hold !'
CHAPTER XI
(Rumour and Prophecy)

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 vittoriocarvelli1997@gmail.com and the offending material can be removed. Equally please do not view this chapter if such material may offend.



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