Thursday, December 04, 2008

Grape and Olive

I never ventured far away from the comfortable zones where I grow grapes and olives. Even the iron-shod, rugged sandals of my Legion cannot adapt to the cold; the soldiers need full boots. My borders surrounded all fields suitable to my particular agriculture.

Somewhere to the North-East, the Germans cut carrots. They slice off round sections, and serve them hot with butter. Even the crudest field kitchens here cut carrots into long, thin triangles served with oil. From the dryest lands of the Parthians to the wall I built in Britain, all people ate, slept, and bathed in the same fashion: Roman.

Alarmists in my comfort zones still fear invasion from the Germans, the recovering Parthians, even the Nubians from the South, across our lake. However, the best among us know that my most dire enemies don't come from without, but from within. In the sands of the arena, my blood lust and cowardice grew. It's a simple thing to see a man killed while tied to a post; it's something completely different to kill a German with a gladius while he fights back. I'm accustomed to pain and bloodshed; watching it just removes my sensitivity to the realities of pain elsewhere.

Many years ago, I defeated the evil genius that haunted my nightmares. We fought first against the knowledge of his father, created a fleet, and matched his best efforts with Roman precision and ferocity. We fought him in Italy, Spain, and even the native shores of his home: Carthage made him strong. I chased him too long, and made him a bitter old man before he voluntarily ended his life with a poison. Romans know poison better than anyone else. In time, we razed Carthage and sowed the fields with salt to prevent recurrence. The evil genius still haunts me, despite his death and hundreds of years without him at my throat.

When I stopped conquering new territory, it was the beginning of the end. Reason fell long before the Palatine Hill. Emporers provided no comfort, merely strength. The Flavian Ampitheater fed my decay as the Praetorian Guard slowly tucked away undue influence, but that is all academic. By the time I knew the end was near, I could not stop it. I can move my capital East; I can grab a hold of a new religion that venerates the cross I used for my enemies; I can even buy my freedom for a time.

Now, the last bastion of what I was takes shelter beneath the Cross. I'm largely forgotten, but I live where it's safe: my home is the stacks of memories kept secure by time and the records of others.

Somewhere to the North-East, the Germans slice carrots into round, orange medallions; now I slice them in the same fashion. They still drink beer, and they still serve food with butter. I continue to drink wine, and serve food with oil, as my legacy fulfills itself anywhere man can grow grapes and olives.