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Richard's Writings > The Birth of Rome > Chapter 18: The Dark Clouds Gather

Synopsis of Chapter 18: The Dark Clouds Gather

Ten years after commencement, the great wall is finished. Sixteen gates intersect the wall using a design called the arch to reach across roadways with uncommon strength. Servius Tullius' wife gives birth to two daughters, Agelastus and Tullia. Lucumo's grandson, Lucius, enlists the sons of Marcus Junius and Arruns Collatinus in his play legion, and shows a latent tyrannic streak. Censor Arruns Tarchna Collatinus is left in charge of Roma while King Servius Tullius conducts a Tour of State to the cities of the Latin Confederation. He agrees to continue to support the worship of Jupiter Latiaris, and build a Temple for Diana, highly revered by the Latins. Tanaquil passes away quietly at a party to celebrate Lucius' running in the Lupercalia. Greeks escaping from Ionia flood into the region, and the Ionian city of Phocaea establish a colony on the island of Corsica called Alalia, alarming Carthage and Etruria.

Excerpt from Chapter 18: The Dark Clouds Gather

"Last fall a Carthaginian commander named Malchus united the Punic population of Sicily and pushed the Greeks to the eastern end of the island. Now he has come in force to Sardinia and is fighting the Greeks there. That has aroused the attention of Alalia and Massalia, who may send reinforcements to Sardinia and the whole situation could spin out of control."

"What are the Etruscans going to do about it?" Marcus asked.

"Stay out of it, for now. But that could change if the Greeks keep pushing into our region."

"I hadn't heard of that before."

"The flood has just begun, apparently. You've heard of Croesus, haven't you, the richest man in the world? Well, he wanted to be even richer, so he decided to invade Persia and Media. His kingdom, Lydia, is host to the Greek cities of Ionia, and he campaigned against them to ensure their support. In the process he happened to destroy the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, the one our Temple of Diana is modeled after. But I hear he is financing the rebuilding of the temple, even grander than before.

"Anyway, last winter Croesus returned to Lydia at the end of the campaigning season, but his opponent did not disband his army, as expected. Instead, Cyrus of Persia invaded Lydia and caught Croesus unprepared. He captured Croesus and is now besieging the Greek cities on the coast of Lydia. As each city falls the population flees westward. Some of the Ionians go to relatives on the Grecian mainland, but most are coming here and settling around the Tyrrhenian Sea. Smyrna, Sardis, Magnesia and Priene, one by one they are falling to Persia, and the survivors are coming here in a flood. And some of them carry strange tales of Cyrus using enormous animals in battle, huge gray creatures that have legs like tree trunks and stand three men high. No wonder he won the day! I wonder how we might get hold of some of these beasts?"

"You can't believe the tales of foreigners," Luc interjected. "They will say anything to be accepted in a new city."

"And what do you know of the world, cadet?" Lucius retorted disdainfully. "They won't get into the city no matter what they say. Servius Tullius has forbidden any Greeks beyond the Forum Boarium. But we have not seen many refugees here so far."

"Servius sounds alarmed," Marcus said.

"Oh, you know the king, always calm, refuses to see the truth about most things. He's fifty one, you know, and I think he's getting worse. I wanted to ban all foreigners from the city, but he refuses to forbid the traders from entering the marketplaces. He's getting soft."

His face radically changed expression as something came to mind.

"I just remembered the biggest news of all!" Lucius snapped his fingers. "Yesterday the king, Tullius, asked me to marry his daughter. Can you believe it?"

"Which daughter?" Luc asked.

"The elder one, of course, the twenty one year old," Lucius replied savagely. "Tullia is only sixteen! She's the fun one, but you can't have everything."

"So you are actually going to marry Agelastus?" Marcus asked.

"Oh, she's duller than dishwater, I know. Pretty enough, I suppose, but her sister is the beauty of the family. Full of life, too. Spiced vinegar."

"So wait and marry the sister."

"Oh, no, I'm not going to let this opportunity pass me by. I'm going to marry Agelastus and close my eyes when I bed her. I want to tie myself to the king as much as he wants to associate himself with the family of Roma's beloved Lucumo. No, this wedding goes forward as scheduled."

"As scheduled?"

"Yes. We signed the contract yesterday."

"I hope you know what you are doing," Marcus warned.

"I always know what I'm doing," Lucius replied. "Thinking all the time, seeing all the angles, that's me." He looked at his own reflection in the fountain pool and preened.


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