from THE ROME GRAUNIAD KAL. APR. DCCLIV A.U.C.
The foundations of Rome continue to be rocked by the latest revelations from the renegade author of ViCiEffluvia, Julianus Celerimus Assanginus. He has managed to get his barbarian hands on copies of thousands of government scrolls sent to Eternal Rome by her legates, prefects and envoys from throughout the whole Empire and beyond. As citizens will know, Assanginus has been appearing in the Forum and other public places, gabbling out extracts from these confidential documents at the top of his voice and then taking off like lightning before the authorities could apprehend him.
Those authorities are, however, confident of an early arrest. A spokesman said:- ‘We’ve got a warrant out on charges of molesting the Vestal Virgins and the Capitoline geese. He must also be wearing out his sandal leather and we’ve put a watch on all the shoe repair booths, I reckon we’ll lift him in the near future and we’ll be heaving him off the top of the Tarpeian Hill before his feet touch the ground again.’
Citizens are advised to stick their fingers in their ears if Assanginus approaches them. No true son of Rome would want to hear the details of these state secrets. This organ certainly has no intention of circulating them. We have, however, been given permission by noble Augustus to publish a small extract of the purloined material relating to a trivial and unimportant incident in an obscure province.
A.D. VII KAL. IAN DCCLIV A.U.C.
To Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus from Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, Legate of Syria.
As you know, our threat level is presently at ‘substantial’. The census which you ordered throughout the Empire is progressing satisfactorily, but all these people travelling to their places of birth to be registered is giving cover to insurgents and hostiles to move contraband material around.
We have stepped up our patrols to intercept any such traffic and we have not had any major incidents to date. You might, however, be amused to read of a curious event near the village of Bethlehem which lies north west of Jerusalem in the client kingdom of Judea.
Our patrol reported seeing a bright light on a nearby hillside. Some of the legionnaires also said that they heard a ‘great noise’ at the same time. Thinking it had to be zealots experimenting with IED’s, they raced to the scene. All they found were some seriously incoherent shepherds, babbling on about the need to get back to Bethlehem because they had just had some very important news. They were local lads, known to the patrol to be friendlies so they were allowed to go on their way with a warning and the suggestion that they put more water in the wine next time.
On another matter, a large, new star has appeared in the sky. I don’t know if you can see it from Rome, but I would respectfully suggest that it might be a good idea to get the augurs to check out a few sacred chickens’ livers in case it means anything, divination-wise.
A.D. IV KAL. IAN DCCLIV A.U.C.
You remember that I mentioned a new star in my previous scroll? I have now received a report from one of my spies at the court of King Herod. The ‘King’ has recently been visited by three astronomers from the East who claimed to be ‘following’ the star. They seem to think that it will lead them to the birthplace of some future ruler of Israel. Funnily enough, they also seem to believe that the birth might have taken place in Bethlehem.
Herod appears to have everything under control. The three astronomers have promised to report back to him once they have completed their search so I don’t see any need for us to get officially involved. It is, after all, us who decides who is ‘King’ of the Jews. I have, nonetheless, warned our patrols to watch out for the three of them just in case.
PRID. KAL. IAN. DCCLIV A.U.C.
A quick codex to tie up loose ends from my two previous scrolls. As Bethlehem was being mentioned so often, I decided to monitor it closely, just in case something was going on. I agreed with the Tribune of the Legion X Fretensis in Jerusalem that we did not need to waste Roman legionnaires on such a trivial matter. He sent a force of Celtic auxiliaries instead.
One of their patrols was enforcing the curfew and blackout when they saw a light coming from a stable. They went in to investigate and found the three astronomers kneeling in front of a manger filled with straw and with a baby lying in it. On questioning, they claimed to be ‘worshipping’ the child. Our men were mindful, of course, of the Imperial edict that the religions of the subject nations are to be respected so they withdrew and then apprehended and interrogated the three of them on their way out.
I understand that they stuck to their ‘future King of Israel’ story, claiming that they had brought gifts for the child. The patrol searched the stable and established that none of the gifts, gold and two types of aromatic resin, were on the list of banned substances. They were not impressed by the attitude of the three detainees, describing them as ‘wise bastards’, but let them go since they could find nothing to charge them with under Roman Law. They also thought that Herod would find something amusing to do with them when theyreported back to him in Jerusalem.
I am indebted to the young Intelligence Officer attached to the Celtic auxiliaries for this report. Had I had to rely on the unintelligible gibberings of the Celts themselves, I would have been hard put to make any sense of the whole affair. Luckily, he was born in the far north of Britannia to a Celtic mother who his Roman father married whilst on a trade visit on your behalf. He was able to render their uncouth language into acceptable Latin.
He seems to have a shrewd head on his shoulders. He writes that the Celts have been strangely affected by the whole incident with several of them claiming that the only source of light in the stable was the baby itself. He also advises me that Celts, particularly the northern ones, are very similar to Jews in many ways and that the troops may have gone completely native. His advice was to ship the whole lot of them off to the Eastern Front of the Empire at the earliest opportunity before they start blabbing.
If we do that, he believes that everything will blow over. He recommends that we should just leave it all to the Jews to sort out and wash our hands of the whole affair. This seems to me to be sound advice which I intend to follow. I will also follow his future career with considerable interest. Young Pontius Pilate strikes me as a man to watch.