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.


The Evil Genius said...

I am not your problem. I will laugh from my pulpit in perdition at your greatest mistakes. When your policy catches up to your literature, you will participate in your own downfall more than any elephant crossing the Alps. Yes, I slaughtered your legions at Cannae. Yes, in turn, you slaughtered my Gauls, LIgurians, and Nubians at Zama. You chased me for twenty years as I fought you in the name of your colonial enemies, but your end has nothing to do with me. You fear my genius. You fear my legacy. Carthage, as I helped make it, is dead. Your great grandchildren will know your greatest flaw: themselves. They will stubbornly refuse to acknowledge their hubris in the middle of free bread and games, and will lose everything.

Thomas Jackson said...

I see Hannibal and Rome are at it again. When will they ever learn? Hannibal was too strong to escape Rome's once-glorious might: any nation challenging the sons of Remus faced annihilation, especially in the Mediterranean. Rome wins wars.

The Evil Genius said...

Rome wins its wars. When Romans cease being Romans, and become Italians, they will lose. The Italians can't even defeat Ethiopia without help from the Germans. You should know that, Thomas. Even your own words condemn your countrymen. Americans are not so different from Romans: you don't fight on your doorstep. In time, your enemies will fight you in your house, and your Nimitz Class walls will tumble. You will face the same punishment of the Romans, and you will share my derision from my place on high in Hell.