Sacramento is famous for toga parties which often are not covered in the mainstream media among the usual culture pages. And the culture end of the practice usually ends up on YouTube. See this article from back in 2010, Sacramento's Largest Toga Party is Thursday at Raley Field, or check out this article: Toga Party - The BOLT. Over the past decade, and before, why did so many Sacramentans, usually college-age people enjoy wearing ancient constumes to parties...or even weddings? The answer is because it's fun to re-create ancient festivities at costume parties serving exotic food creations, costumes, and decor or jewelry, especially as portrayed in the last few decades of movies.
Would you like to know how to throw a real wedding in the style of the ancient Roman wedding? There are plenty of articles and books online telling you what ancient weddings were like in procedures, food, customs, and even how and why the bride's hair was parted in a specific number of sections on the wedding day. Noteworthy is that ancient Rome's drinking water had 100 times the lead levels found in drinking water there in current times.
Often the hair, usually some shade of brown, was tinted with henna, a shade of auburn. Or gold thread hairnets, usually woven in Damascus, were imported for women to wear on their hair to give their tresses highlights.
Did you know that ancient Roman wedding food varieties and customs formed the basis for most modern western marriage customs?
You may wish to check out this author's historical novel, Proper Parenting in Ancient Rome from the publisher. Or on Amazon.com, it's, Proper Parenting in Ancient Rome: A Time-Travel Novel of Love as Growth of Consciousness & Peace in the Home.
What about the fanfare at ancient Roman weddings? The decor, food, revelry? The hairstyles and dress? Other than throwing nuts instead of rice, much of the customs remain, minus the ancient Roman custom of tossing the bridal torch to the guests. Today, you’re more likely to scramble after the bridal bouquet.
The no-yeast bread-like slow-baked wedding honey, raisins, and rose blossom cake of ancient Rome is replaced today by the frosted multi-layered wedding cake. Instead of a Minerva or Venus figurine and sea shells on top of a cake, you have the bride and groom doll figures.
You, too, Brutus, can have your own ancient Roman wedding feast, at least in costume and food with maybe some Latin vows with any other language subtitles or translations. All you need is a menu and a skit for the wedding procession split into the bride and groom’s pageant where you meet at one location.
What did ancient Romans look for in a bride? Obedience, green or hazel eyes, a wealthy or skilled father, a convex nose, the longer the better, (signs of intelligence in offspring), and red or auburn hair (rare trait, but admired in women to the extent henna compounds helped those who didn’t resemble the natural tresses of their Celtic neighbors in Milan).
Frescoes and paintings of ancient Roman goddesses were painted having red hair, which also appeared on murals in ancient Etruscan dining rooms and on statues of the Greek goddess, Athena. But the wedding dinners emphasized healthy whole grains and green vegetables.
What to serve at an ancient Roman breakfast wedding feast
Present this ancient Roman recipe for egged toast. Put out a plate of fresh balls of Mozarella cheese—the kind made fresh from whole milk. This gives some protein to the egg bread served on the side.
Take several slices for each party member of good, thick egg bread. Dip the egg bread into a mixture of egg and goat milk. I prefer low-fat Meyenberg goat milk I can buy in the health food section of the supermarket. You use your favorite brand. Coat the egg bread in the mixture of beaten eggs and milk. Fry in hot extra virgin cold pressed olive oil until golden brown. Drain off the oil and put on a platter.
Now in some more olive oil fry sliced dried fruit—apricots, strawberries, raisins, currents, sliced peeled apples, or any fruit you want. Dried fruit is fine, or even bananas. Drain and add orange blossom honey to the olive oil mixture. You can also use maple syrup, but honey is more ancient Roman. Pour the syrup and dried fruit over the egg toast and serve with a ball of baked ricotta cheese and honey on the side.
According to the articles on the following sites, Ancient Weddings, by Jennifer Goodall Powers, SUNY Albany, Original text © 1997 Jennifer Goodall Powers, Roman Weddings, Ancient Roman Family and Marriage, and Ancient Roman Weddings, here are some of the steps carried out during ancient Roman weddings known for young brides and older men.
50 Steps to Your Ancient Roman Wedding or Toga Party and Dinner
A Roman wedding ring symbolized the rope that bound the bridal wrists in times so ancient it occurred before ancient Rome. Yet it also symbolized the circular nature of nature itself which symbolized recurrence, rebirth, and rhythm.
By the Republic era of ancient Rome, the wedding ring was then thought to bind the nerve that ran from the finger to the heart, thereby caging the bride’s heart or seat of emotions as a caged bird that sings. Yet the liver was supposed to be the seat of emotions, but never the brain. A lot took place between the time of negotiation and engagement before a wedding, a lot of planning, thought, and family social climbing, when possible.
You can have three types of Roman weddings. In ancient Rome there were three different kinds of weddings. You could have the confarreatio. This is the patrician marriage assuming the bride’s and groom’s parents also were married with confarreatio. You’d have a grand ceremony with ten witnesses.
The first legal paper you’d need is a marriage license of one type or another. You show your civil marriage license to the person who is licensed to perform civil and secular or religious (any religion, humanist, or none) marriages who has the legal authority to marry you and hand you a signed certificate with two witnesses signing also. You’d take that certificate to the county recorder’s office the next day and obtain a legally stamped with a seal and signed by the county recorder certificate of marriage.
You need to save them in your safety deposit box to show social security in the future if you’re applying for spousal retirement benefits or to prove legal marriage status elsewhere. After you’ve written up your wedding ritual plan and budget, you’d need a Flamen Dialis and Pontifex Maximus to conduct the wedding.
You’d have to appoint someone with the licensed power to conduct marriages in a civil, pagan, humanist, or secular setting who can hand you a signed certificate of marriage to take to the country recorder’s office the next day and register your marriage. Ask whether person performing your marriage does that for you if you’re off to your honeymoon right after the ceremony.
The bride goes straight from her paterfamilias to the groom. Divorce was almost unheard of. A patrician divorce was difficult to obtain and rare, but if gotten, a diffareatio required a sacrifice before the wife was returned to her father….The bride is literally handed into her father’s arms. “manus of her paterfamilias.”
You could have a plebeian wedding and have a common Roman marriage where “manus” called the coemptio. The groom purchased the bride. The groom pays nummus usus, a penny, and gets the bride in exchange for the penny. It’s not a real sale, but symbolizes the traditional bride purchase of years gone by before ancient Roman times. For a common wedding, you only need five witnesses. The wedding is informal, but the bride is given to her husband’s family.
The third kind of Roman marriage is unusual because it was not used by the end of the Republic and labeled old fashioned. It went out with the end of the Republic. It was called the “usus” and was a practical marriage that did not require any type of ritual or ceremony.
This type of marriage existed in the days of the early Republic and before that when there were kings in Rome. By 80 BCE, it was termed obsolete.
In this wedding, the bride was transferred to the “manus” of the groom (or the bride is handed over to the groom) after cohabitation for a year.
At the beginning of the cohabitation where the two would simply live together for a set time, the couple would take an oath of adfectus maritalis, fidelity in marriage. After the year was up, the bride then belonged to the husband or “passed into his hands.” The only way to get out of that cohabitation marriage was if the woman was away from the husband’s home for three nights in a row, she would not have to pass into the husband’s clutches, ‘er hands. …or rather his “manus.”
1. No ceremony was needed to legalize your wedding. So it’s okay to live together for two weeks in order to acquire “adfectus maritalis,” and thereby have your wedding recognized as legal in Rome. However, most patrician families insisted upon a rite of marriage ceremony—a wedding and wedding feast.
2. First the bride renounces her infanthood. She begins by giving away her childhood toys and her children’s garb called the toga praetexta. She proceeds to take three baths, one in cold water, one in lukewarm water, and one in heated water, comfortable but warm. She scrubs her body with a mixture of warm extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed, of course.
3. To the bowl of olive oil is added whole and pressed cloves, pot purri dried flowers such as orange blossoms and rose blossoms or petals and extract of orange blossom and rose petal water, essence adopted from the Phoenicians—to boil orange and rose petals and wash with it mixed with olive oil. She rinses her mouth with rose petal water and eats a fresh apple to clean her teeth, then rubs her teeth with linen soaked in crushed chalk or similar minerals. (Modern brides would do fine with calcium powder.). She brushes orange blossom honey on her tongue.
4. Her hairstyle is unique to the wedding feast and is called the tutulus. This hairdo involves having her hair combed and parted into six locks. The Latin term was “sex crines,” (no not sex crimes) crines. Six crines. Her hair is parted into six parts not with a comb but with a traditional Roman bent iron spearhead called a “hasta recurva” or “hasta caelibaris.” Her hair is parted in six parts with a bent iron spearhead. (As if that isn’t enough of a phallic symbol at a wedding, the reason for the spearhead in ancient Rome was that it drove out the evil eye in her hair and any other evil ghost-spirits.)
This custom pops up in other cultures from Australia to ancient Rome—driving out the evil ones from the hair with a bent spearhead. This was preceded by a fine carved ivory or wooden lice comb through the hair and then the spearhead for good measure.
5. She fastens or has fastened the six hair locks equally divided in a hexagon over her head with a type of clip or baret called a vittae.
6. The vittae are fastened on top of her head in a meta. The meta is shaped like an inverted or standing pyramid or a cone. In other words, she has six hair spikes sticking up from her head. However, the meta is not severe looking. Usually the wedding tradition required that six locks of curled hair be clipped in place in the shape of a cone.
7. The wedding gown in ancient Rome was only worn one time and then tossed. It could be off-white, but the wedding veil was bright red and called the flammeum. And the red veil was the most important symbol she wore at her wedding.
8. The wedding vows. The woman says in Latin “I veil myself.” She uses the verb “nubo” which is a term used for a cloud “nubes.” What she means is that she’s under a cloud or veiled. She’s property under a cloud being exchanged. (Let’s see her get to inherit property with that title report of being under a cloud.)
9. Words related to nubo include nupta, a woman who is married, nova nupta, a bride, and nuptiae, the wedding from which comes the English word, nuptials used today for wedding ceremonies and rituals. Everything in the wedding feast or ritual now is focused on the bride and her flaming red veil. (Why red? Was she compared to a rose, or was there a deeper meaning such as the blood proof of her chastity/virginity that used to be demanded to be viewed from the window by the public in Sicily and Egypt?)
10. Here’s what the veil looked like: You take a rectangular transparent piece of silk or similar material that’s bride red and drape it on the back of your head and shoulders to your heels. It’s like an oblong flag. Before silk came to Rome it was spun from a transparent material similar to the type of flimsy, silk-like cloth from certain Greek islands.
11. You fasten the veil to the cones at the back of your head. The veil does not go over the face, but down the back and touching the shoulders. On top of the veil is a wreath of amaracus.
12. A miniature wedding bed was placed in the hallway to cheer up the couple.
13. Pine cones were lit.
14. The gown consisted of a tunica recta. You can make this out of a white piece of rectangular cloth of muslin, flannel or silk. You weave the cloth on an upright loom. The tunica recta is fashioned with a girdle called a cingulum with a knot at the waist to tie up the evil spirits so they wouldn’t settle in her reproductive organs.
15. The first half of the wedding feast takes place at the bride’s home of her paterfamilias. The bride’s parents search in the nooks and crannies of the house for omens, and if nothing is found that’s scary, they hand over the bride to the groom.
16. The bride takes the vows “Ubi tu (name of groom), ego (name of bride), actually, Where you are (male form of name) such as Claudius, I am (female form of the male’s name) Claudia….as in “Where you are Claudius, I am Claudia.” Only you say it in Latin. “Ubi tu Claudius, ego Claudia.”
17. The groom didn’t even have to be in the country. He could send a letter with his part of the words they would exchange with one another. Then the matron of honor called the pronuba grabs the couple’s hands and shoves them together to join the bride’s and groom’s hands, gently of course.
18. The bride and groom are now married. They offer up a roast pig as a “sacrifice.”
19. Then there’s the matter of the marriage contract. The tabulae nuptials should have been prepared long ago. It’s brought forth now by the auspex, a priest and best man, and the couple signs the contract along with the witnesses. A certain number of witnesses were required for the contract to be legal.
20. A wedding breakfast, rather than a wedding dinner, is paid for by the groom, even though he may not be there in person. After eating a breakfast of cakes and egg lace pudding, all the gifts were presented to the new couple.
21. The procession started after that. Now everything moves from the bride’s villa to the groom’s. If there’s no villa, then from the bride’s little hut to the groom’s. The procession is like a pageant and is called the deduction in domum mariti. It’s also referred to as the pompa for short.
22. Now the dramatic skit starts. Everything has drama in it in ancient Rome. The couple and guests put on a wedding play. It’s almost always the same skit: The seize of the Sabines. The bride clings or hugs her mother, and the groom pulls her out of her mother’s arms. Then the bride had to find three boys whose both parents were alive and well callead the patarimi et matrimi to take the bride or lead the bride away from her mother’s arms while the guests shouted jokes and/or obscenities. The groom chose one boy to light a pine torch and carry another torch called a spina alba, a special torch lit only from the bride’s home, usually from her fireplace or similar hearth.
23. Another boy throws walnuts (shelled) at the couple being careful not to throw small pieces in the bride’s ear where they can’t be removed, or in her eyes. So they aim the walnuts at her legs. The nuts symbolize the wish for fertility of the bride.
24. What does the bride carry? Blueberries and wreaths, a spindle and distaff symbolizing her role as a wife who weaves and stays at home, and hopefully she carries nothing catching other than the catch of the day.
25. The groom lights the torches symbolizing bringing knowledge to the darkness.
26. The groom also sings verses called “Fescenennine poems.”
27. The bride touches water and fire “aquae et ignis communication” symbolizing a life of cooking food and washing the soiled clothing.
28. She touches the mini-marriage bed symbolizing the separate spirits of the bride and groom. His spirit guide is genius and her spirit guide is Juno.
29. The groom had to be at home in his own house before the bride arrived there so he could greet her. The processions split into two pageants called the uxorem ducere/deducere.
30. The mother of the bride yells, “epithalamia” and dances a leap to move the spirits to cheer the couple on to consummate the marriage, but consummation of a marriage wasn’t required for the marriage to be legal, not on the wedding night, and not decades later. So celibate couples with adopted children were accepted.
31. The mother and bride finally arrive at the groom’s house and toss away their torches in a traditional ritual. The bride now takes out a small jar or pot of fat or oil and rubs the grease on the doorway and hangs a wreath and a piece of wool to symbolize her life as a domestic hostess. She tiptoes across the threshold. In the later republic she is carried over the threshold. The reason is that it’s a bad omen, an evil eye curse to step on the threshold or trip over it. If she stumbles over her clothing on the way to her groom’s house, it’s a bad omen that he’ll trip her up or abuse her.
32. The new house is now a place for the bride to touch water and fire to symbolize her role as chief cook and bottle washer, as domestic housewife and stay at home mom, dedicated to a life of cooking and washing with spinning on the side. She must not trip over the groom’s miniature marriage bed in the hallway.
33. Consummation of marriage was part of the ceremony for those who chose. The marriage of young people—girls at age 12, boys at 14, but usually older, 17 for girls was most common, and men older, saw to it that the room was decorated with objects of fertility and phallic symbols. Girls as young as seven in some families were married to older men or boys a few years older, but did not move to the groom’s home until they both were old enough to start a family and their own household.
34. The marriage bed room was decorated with fruit and flowers. Green leaves were put in the windows. The marriage bed was called the torus genialis. For the last time, the bride’s parents handed the bride over to the groom. Still, there was an escort into the bedroom, called the pronuba. The pronuba led the bride with her eyes closed by one hand into the bedroom. The pronuba had to be an old, married woman whose husband was still alive and who only had been married once. She had to represent a faithful wife.
35. She told the bride what she has to do on her wedding night and as a faithful wife thereafter—washing, cooking, spinning, weaving and care or leadership of the house hold or servants doing the household chores. The bride either did it herself or if she was rich had servants, but she still had to tell them how to do it and what to do in the domestic life—cooking, washing, cleaning, and shopping for which foods. The pronuba’s job was to teach the bride what the bride must do to run her home on a daily basis such as how to get find and judge the best cuts of meat or vegetables. The bride needed a mentor. That was the pronuba’s duty.
36. In the bedroom the pronuba prayed with the bride on how to be the incarnation of a faithful wife and how to ask for a blessing on the union.
37. The pronuba then undressed the bride, took away her jewelry and put it in a safe place and asked the bride to get into bed, under the covers. Then the pronuba took her leave. Later, the groom entered escorted by those who he choose to take with him to his marriage bed room. Or he could enter alone. Outside, the pronuba offered a sacrifice of cakes made of cheese, honey, and flour, and then went home. Finally the groom’s friends took a hint and left the couple alone. Oustide the marriage bedroom, the wedding feast continued with the relatives feasting, singing, and dancing.
38. No consummation of the marriage would be done until there was a performance of a play with the actors being the bride and groom. Yep, another skit in the marriage bedroom.
39. The play consisted of actual lines and drama from a skit. The bride had to play being not interested at all in consummating the marriage. The groom would beg her to change her mind. She had to put on a crying act and turn him away. He’d speak to her love poetry.
40. She’d signal him by addressing him as “husband,” and he calling her “wife.” After an actual play with recited lines were said, or at least play-acting of reluctance, the groom had to learn how to untie a very complex tight knot around her waist.
41. She wore nothing but a girdle with this rope knotted so it would take him a long time to get the knot untied—a way of making sure he was patient and slow to anger.
42. A wife wouldn’t want to stay married to a man with a hair-trigger temper.
43. When and if he finally figured out how to untie the knot in the rope around her waist fastened around her girdle or a band of cloth around her waist, the only thing she was wearing under the bed clothing, he proved himself worthy to consummate the marriage or at least agree to her wishes that it wasn’t required.
44. There was even a law about the consummation of marriage. It was called the law of foedus lecti, a contract of fidelity. However, consummation wasn’t necessary or required by law for the marriage to be legal.
45. Whatever the couple decided, no one asked in the morning. The bride emerged the next day to her family and guests with a new name, “matrona” or matron. She was no longer considered a young girl, but a matron and was supposed to act and look matronly “matrona.”
46. The most important emphasis on the marriage besides having heirs was that the bride now belongs to the new family’s religio. That night another grand feast and pageant would take place with the wedding guests called the repotia.
47. That’s the main wedding feast dinner and drinks. It was a party in every sense of the word.
48. According to the article, Roman Weddings, nuts were thrown by the participants as opposed to our modern tradition of rice.
49. As the bride reached the threshold of her new home, she recited the consent chant. She signaled her new husband to carry her over the threshold. Then he closed the doors to the public and invited in only a few selected guests.
50. The bride lit a fire with a special torch carried in front of the procession. Instead of throwing a bouquet to the guests, she blew out the torch and tossed it in the air where the guests scrambled for it. Whoever caught the torch became the next bride (or queen) for a day.
For further information on conversations and customs at Roman weddings, time travel, and a fast-paced satirical novel, read my paperback adventure fiction book, Proper Parenting in Ancient Rome.
Here's an excerpt from this author's historical novel, Proper Parenting in Ancient Rome:
Even the Carthaginian Prisoners of War Near Rome Had Their Own Slaves, a Handful for the Official "Morals Regulator" of Rome....
Thousands of Carthaginian prisoners of war in Setia, near Rome have now banded with their former Carthaginian slaves, and falsely promising their slaves freedom if they revolt and aid them in their return to Carthage. Only the slave and foreign master uprising is wreaking terror all over the Roman countryside and is headed for Rome with wanton destruction of Romans all along the roads between Setia and Rome.
Just when Cato convinces the senate to destroy Carthage, the king of Numidia in Africa (modern Algeria) pays a visit to Cato's home at his wedding dinner, and suddenly, after Cato convinces the senate to make a third Punic War with Carthage (modern Tunisia) and destroy it forever, all of a sudden Cato, Masinissa, king of Numidia, Petronius and the Roman Army are off to Numidia to destroy Carthage.
Meanwhile, the praetor tells Petronius that he's hired his father to spy on the Carthaginians in Setia. Two Carthaginian slaves in Rome who didn't like their Carthaginian master, now a Roman prisoner of war, have revealed to the Roman praetor that a slave uprising the likes of which has never before seen will begin in Setia the day of the games. Torrents of slaves have run away when the leaders of the ring were caught. Now they threaten Rome itself, but Petronius and Cato are on their way to Numidia with the Roman Army, leaving Rome itself more or less unprotected.
Romans too hot to handle are in 150 BCE on the prowl to find missing persons as they find a purpose. When wealthy young men and Cato, the Elder's nephew disappear and moving forward more than a century in time, in this time-travel humorous historical continuing series of a story, the daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony trades places with the daughter of the Roman Emperor, Octavian-Augustus's sister and Marc Antony, one private eye in a toga, Petronius, must solve the mystery before the war with Carthage breaks out and the slave riot overtakes Rome. He has his hands full.
What happens when he meets the immortal time traveler, king Masinissa of Numidia, and becomes a Roman personal eye, a proto-detective in a toga, with a profound responsibility to do good deeds and tend to charity while on his way to start a war?
Rome, the Republic, Second Century BCE
I'm more than Cato's ransomer, hired this time by him to find not only his nephew which I had been falsely told were taken by slave traders, but also hired to find my own two brothers and father, Tertius, held by Cato's greatest enemy, Scipio Africanus. My client, Marcus Porcius Cato, a political leader and morals regulator of great integrity and determination, also known as Cato the Elder, ordered his galley anchored beside the galley of Scipio Africanus near the port of Neapolis.
I'm only Petronius Candius, in this lifetime, the most free-spending ransomer, a private locator of missing people for hire, but also a Fabius, a high-born inventor of practical farm equipment, physician, and comparatively wealthy young man walking beside the most severe but moral censor, orator, and taxer of the rich. And if I hadn't been hired to find Cato's nephew, I would have been at my own wedding feast today.
Instead, I watched through open shutters from where Cato and I cowered in the rat-infested salt fish room beneath the mews and falcons copse. I watched from above, as my Roman father this year by marriage to a foreign woman of Ephesus, was now disguised as yet one more Antiochus of Asia, the second, (after the first was defeated) and last year the object of gossip in Rome as well as its greatest physician. My father is a man of a thousand disguises as uses them for healing in a nontraditional fashion.
Here, my father writhed and stumbled over coiled ropes in the sour blackness of the galleys hatches. There, Scipio Africanus, the commander of the greatest popularity who defeated Hannibal at Zama, had chained my father because he wouldn't reveal the whereabouts of my older brother, Lucius, my younger brother, Marcus, or Cato's nephew, Antonius.
Several young men have been missing lately, the wealthiest men in Rome, all from first families, their memories wiped clean, and then taken by slave traders. My father needed to tell me which potions wipe the memory and whether it was permanent when he tracked the very plants to Scipio's galley. Scipio stared at me brazenly, as if my presence would mark him publicly.
Cato asked me to find these eldest sons of the first families of Rome and return them to their fathers. And now I watched olive oil from tankards dripping slowly into my father's eyes and running down his arms. It streaked the blood as he kicked against the manacles that held him steadfast to the rolling galley. "You're only a pedantic bigot, Cato," Scipio roared crookedly with a wavering smile as he glanced at the two of us.
"I saw you minting Antiochus's coins," Cato waved a pointed finger at Scipio, gloriously. "How dare you lead a decadent lifestyle to pursue Greek customs and then be so clumsy as to ship to Petronius priceless statuary and works of art smashed in pieces?"
"You forced a court trial with me and won," Scipio barked, squinting at the irony in his words. Yes, irony, Cato. "You lost your reputation. Look at you now, withdrawn from politics."
"My father found you, Scipio, minting coinage based on the known world's standards governing weights and measures of our times. I know that's why you chained my father in the darkest hold of this galley. It's not my brother or father who is the pirate you seek."
"Then who do I seek?" Scipio interrupted me. "Your brothers disguise themselves as pirates from Carthage."
"They are not here to take the blame. And they sail not as pirates, but as physicians. Have you sunk their hospital galley? Our family plies the seas to heal the sick and the soldiers of Rome. We bring spices, instruments, and herbs from the roads of Asia, the star of the Indus."
Cato and his family haven't shaken the stigma of having to withdraw from politics some years ago, but now my father, brothers, and I saw to it that the citizens of Rome elected Cato as censor. What if I supported the losing side?
"I've sought Carthage's destruction more fiercely than you have, Scipio, "Cato muttered under his raspy breath.
"What do you want with me?" Scipio turned to Cato. You're Rome's guardian of biting morality, and now you've come after me as merely one more enemy. What will you do, Cato, tax me again?"
"While you were at sea, I expelled Manilius," Cato answered, moving me forward with his right arm. "He'll no more run as a candidate in the next election for the office of consul, and I'll see the same happens to you."
"Is that a threat or a promise?" Scipio barked wide-eyed and in high spirits. "Everyone knows why Cato expelled him, Scipio. Manilius dared to embrace his wife in public, and his daughter watched him put his arms around his wife."
Scipio shook his ivory stirgil as he stirred a cauldron of olive oil. I wondered whether he planned to boil my father in oil or spice his own bath. He waved his hand, and the pot of oil was slid across the floor and moved to another room.
Scipio pointed his thick finger at me. "He embraced his wife in front of his daughter in public because she tripped over her palla and stumbled. Manilius merely broke her fall."
"No, Cato insisted. He embraced his wife in public like a wolf in heat, in full view of his daughter's innocent gaze. He had to be expelled."
My client, Cato intervened once more on my behalf. Another beating had spared my father's life for today. Scipio's guard laughed at my father, mocking as he crashed a bucket of water across the floor boards.
"What are you complaining about? We told you that you'd earn money working the oars. Instead, you're protecting barbarous refugees fleeing into our lands like thirsty rats."
"More often, I'm a physician healing soldiers in their own lands. Where are my wife and sons?"
The guard again laughed. "Now what business would we have in Rome or Neapolis with your wife? He waved his torch before my father's eyes. But if she were blind, what need would she have of eyes to share the captain's table? Now your sons, that's another matter."
Marius struggled in pain, filling his lungs with the dark mold that steamed the air. My father didn't scream out. Instead, he listened to the squealing rats fighting in the darkness. His guard let fly the plug of musty water from a public slop bucket, and it slimed my father with fish guts, blood, and seaweed.
Before he left him in darkness, the guard dipped his torch made of twisted reeds in pitch and waved the burning smoke in my father's face, forcing him to crawl even lower in the black space as the smoke burned his nostrils. Are you an animal or a man, Marius of Rome? Do I see a wolf's tail on you? By the bite of the wolf you were born, and like the wild man-wolf you are, you shall die here, very slowly, unless you tell me where I can find your pirate son. Has he returned to Rome? Is he here in Neapolis?"
Scipio paced back and forth. "So you spread the word I misuse public property, eh, Cato?" His hooded eyes blazed. "You severed the pipes for the public water supply because one person drew water illegally. You demolished my family's home because it overlapped onto public land. You tax the rich way beyond what reason or conscience allows."
"I won't stand for excessive luxuries," Cato replied. You won't make of Rome an Egyptian temple."
"So you regulated luxuries so severely, there isn't any because you've turned Rome into a military camp."
"That's the idea," Cato said sharply. "What Rome needs is harder mattresses." The cold dampness allowed all of us to think. I moved closer to my father, but Marius refused to struggle and contained his fury as Cato seized his chains from the guard's fists.
Tell me again about the day you taxed the rich blind, I asked Cato, mapping out a plan in my mind of how we would free my father from Scipio's chains and prove he wasn't the pirate Scipio was after.
Except for one distraction-my father mastered a thousand disguises and many dialects. Which one did he use with Scipio now? Of all the men who ever hired me as a ransomer, the one who could save my father and brother enjoyed publicly playing the role of a miser.
Cato's new young bride worked hard for balance in her life, but all her choices led to paradoxical twists. Used to putting out family wildfires by working behind the scenes, she chose from among distinct cultures and deities as if they were trays at the feast of Saturnalia.
Gossip among the senators' wives blasted her as a social climber, and she would finally reach the top if Cato didn't mind that her new sandals cost more than her dowry.
Her father, Cato's scribe, Salonius, described her as too Roman to handle, and he signed the marriage contract witnessed by a handful of Cato's bodyguards. Poor Salonius had worked as a scribe for Cato when he was a magistrate, and now remained loyal to him still as his client.
Cato beckoned Salonius, waving his emerald ring, and the old scribe hurried to Cato's side wondering why Cato needed all those escorts, those bodyguards with him here in the forum.
"Did you perchance find a husband yet for your daughter?" The old Cato snapped, and then grinned widely, wheezing as Salonius approached. "No. I wait to ask your opinion first," Salonius replied bowing his head in
respect to honor his famous client.
"Heh, heh. It seems I've already found the most worthy match in Rome for your daughter, unless you find his advanced age an obstacle. He is very old.
"Who? Age is of no importance," Salonius added softly, glancing sideways at Cato's escorts.
"I will be the fiancé of your young daughter," Cato cackled.
"I'm honored," Salonius replied, lowering his head and at the same time thinking to himself, "Oh no."
A few moments later, Salonius hurried his shaking hand to sign Cato's marriage contract. "She'd better give me a son quickly,"
Cato whispered. "A son who will assume the surname of his maternal grandfather, Salonius, no doubt."
"How come a widower like you with that Egyptian slave girl who comes to visit you nightly wants all of a sudden to marry a Roman girl so young she barely has entered her teen years?" Salonius asked cautiously.
Cato winced. "It's my elder son and his new bride. Personally I think men in love are a joke. I laugh at them. My work is producing encyclopedias," Cato said curtly.
"My son is hounding me ever since my wife died. His wife is mortified by the visits of the slave girl to my room nightly. It's probably the orange cat she brings with her that troubles him. The cat pollutes my food."
Salonius looked at Cato slyly. "Believe me, it's not the scent of the cat that bothers your son's new bride."
"Yes, it makes her wheeze."
"A morality-centric man such as you, Cato, knows it's not the cat. And it's not your scornful attitude about women who insist on owning property either that has upset your son's wife. After all, she's a new bride and living in your house.
Your son is trying to protect her from your shocking behavior. Your reputation as the moral protector of Rome hardly befits the single life when your son and his young bride are trying to start a family in your home."
My son's bride and your daughter will find much in common with their friendship. They're the same age," Cato sighed.
"Two fifteen year old brides will have much to say to each other," Salonius replied, bowing his head. "I'm honored but astonished you asked me, a mere scribe."
Ah, but it's my work to make sure the scribe in Rome holds a place he deserves. I, too have produced a work on medicine, and with your help, wrote my History of Rome, and a text on farming, an encyclopedia, and..."
"Cato, you'll find my daughter is more of a scribe than I. She's a young girl, true, but she has written an encyclopedia on herbs within the last two years. This is no ordinary fifteen-year old Roman bride. She is a practical inventor, and you might find her well, too Roman to handle."
Want to read the rest of this continuing humorous time-travel story set in ancient Rome during the days of the Republic and beyond? Then check out my paperback novel, Proper Parenting in Ancient Rome: A Time-Travel Novel of Love as Growth of Consciousness & Peace in the Home.