Date   

Re: LUDI NOVI ROMANI | The Holiday of Anna Perenna | CLOSING CEREMONIES OF THE LUDI NOVI ROMANI

C. Claudius Quadratus, augur
 

Salve, Lentule!

In the People's Republic of Quebec there are limited opportunities to celebrate.  We are almost in a state of house arrest with an 8:00 p.m. curfew.  Restaurants are closed to both indoor and outdoor dining and gatherings with friends or relatives are prohibited.  My celebration will consists of offerings to the gods, a glass of wine with dinner, and reading Robert Harris's novel Pompeii.  I'll also send a small contribution to the Torre Argentina cat shelter, located at the site of Caesar's assassination.  Normally, I would visit them in the spring, but travel is now impossible.

Vale!

C. Claudius Quadratus

---------- Original Message ----------
From: "Cn. Cornelius Lentulus, quaestor, praefectus rei publicae administrandae, curator rei informaticae, pontifex via groups.io" <cn_corn_lent@...>
Date: March 15, 2021 at 8:20 AM

 
Cn. Lentulus pontifex Autroniae Stoloni s. p. d.

Excellent, thank you for sharing how you celebrate this last day of the Nova Roman Games and the holiday of Anna Perenna. I'm sure Divus Iulius appreciates the gesture, too!

It would be great to hear other fellow Nova Romans, how they celebrate this day?

Valete!

Cn. Cornelius Lentulus
pontifex, quaestor etc.


Il lunedì 15 marzo 2021, 13:15:03 CET, D. Autronia Stolo via groups.io <rkarfit@...> ha scritto:


Salvete!

I have offered sacrifice and libations this morning at my Lararium to Jupiter, Anna Perenna, the Divine Caesar and my household Gods, asking for blessings on my family, friends and the good folks here at Nova Roma.  This afternoon I will open a fresh bottle of red wine to enjoy with the evening meal.
I hope everyone has a wonderful day, however you choose to celebrate!


Valete,

D. Autronia Stolo


 


 


Re: LUDI NOVI ROMANI | The Holiday of Anna Perenna | CLOSING CEREMONIES OF THE LUDI NOVI ROMANI

Cn. Cornelius Lentulus
 

Cn. Lentulus pontifex Autroniae Stoloni s. p. d.

Excellent, thank you for sharing how you celebrate this last day of the Nova Roman Games and the holiday of Anna Perenna. I'm sure Divus Iulius appreciates the gesture, too!

It would be great to hear other fellow Nova Romans, how they celebrate this day?

Valete!

Cn. Cornelius Lentulus
pontifex, quaestor etc.


Il lunedì 15 marzo 2021, 13:15:03 CET, D. Autronia Stolo via groups.io <rkarfit@...> ha scritto:


Salvete!

I have offered sacrifice and libations this morning at my Lararium to Jupiter, Anna Perenna, the Divine Caesar and my household Gods, asking for blessings on my family, friends and the good folks here at Nova Roma.  This afternoon I will open a fresh bottle of red wine to enjoy with the evening meal.
I hope everyone has a wonderful day, however you choose to celebrate!


Valete,

D. Autronia Stolo


Re: LUDI NOVI ROMANI | The Holiday of Anna Perenna | CLOSING CEREMONIES OF THE LUDI NOVI ROMANI

Autronia Stolo
 

Salvete!

I have offered sacrifice and libations this morning at my Lararium to Jupiter, Anna Perenna, the Divine Caesar and my household Gods, asking for blessings on my family, friends and the good folks here at Nova Roma.  This afternoon I will open a fresh bottle of red wine to enjoy with the evening meal.
I hope everyone has a wonderful day, however you choose to celebrate!

Valete,
D. Autronia Stolo


LUDI NOVI ROMANI | The Holiday of Anna Perenna | CLOSING CEREMONIES OF THE LUDI NOVI ROMANI

Cn. Cornelius Lentulus
 

Cn. Lentulus, pontifex, sac. Concordiae, quaestor, praefectus rei publicae Senatui Populoque Novo Romano Quiritibus s. p. d.

Today, on these Ides of March, I have offered the Closing Ceremony for the Ludi Novi Romani which celebrates the 23rd Anniversary of the Founding of Nova Roma. The end-games of the ludi will continue today, some of the contests are open for participation until midnight today, but the Anna Perenna ceremony has been the final ritual of the Ludi Novi Romani. Today we pray to Concordia, to Mars, to Iuppiter Optimus Maximus and to Anna Perenna, goddess of longevity, goddess of the year and Time, for a long life of all Nova Romans, and for Nova Roma Herself.

On this day, Roman tradition says, one must drink as many glasses of wine as many years one wants to live in the rest of his life. Let's drink some glasses of wine today, not only for us, but for the 23rd anniversary of Nova Roma, too.

As the lock down didn't allow community live celebrations this year, I attach last year's celebrations in this link:


These photos were not taken on today's Anna Perenna ceremony, but they were taken last year, on 10th March, when as pontifex, quaestor and governor of Italia and Pannonia, Cn. Lentulus held an official community celebration of the Ludi Novi Romani and the Concordialia, for the 22nd Anniversary of the founding of Nova Roma with the Nova Romans of the Cohors VI Carpathica and the burgus Colonia Rostallo, subdivisions of Pannonia Provincia. Prayers and sacrifices were offered to Concordia, Mars and Iuppiter Optimus Maximus for Nova Roma, for our consuls, for the Senate and People, for Pannonia and Italia, and for Regio Rostallonsis and its unit the Cohors VI Carpathica.

Io Anna Perenna, Io Concordia, Io Nova Roma annorum XXIII !

Valete!

CN. CORNELIVS LENTVLVS EQ. EQ. P.
PONTIFEX, SACERDOS CONCORDIAE
QVAESTOR, PRAEFECTVS REI PVBLICAE
CVRATOR REI INFORMATICAE SPQNR




LUDI NOVI ROMANI | One Last Call Before the End

Cn. Cornelius Lentulus
 

Cn. Lentulus quaestor omnibus Quiritibus sal.

I hope you continue to enjoy your festival, the celebration of yourself, your community, your achievements, Quirites! Tomorrow, our aediles P. Annaeus and A. Iulius will close the games, so hurry up with participating, you have still a full day and some more: remember, you will earn CENSUS POINTS and higher status in Nova Roma, your votes will weight more, your name will ring more nicely, and all the beautiful boys and girls of Nova Roma will love you more dearly ;)

Here you can access all programs and contests of the current Ludi Novi Romani:

Please let me know if you find the page useful, or you miss something from the page! Feedback is appreciated! Don't you find the added little logos for each program nice? It adds more respect to our games!

Before I close my letter, I would like call your attention to TOMORROW'S PROGRAM, the closing day of the celebration of the anniversary of Nova Roma: Anna Perenna Day. The day when Caesar was stabbed, the Ides of March. Anna Perenna was celebrated by the Romans on that day since the dawn of time. The Romans celebrates Anna Perenna by drinking wine, and an old tradition in Rome said that you would live as many years in addition as many glasses of wine you drink on the Ides of March. You know Caesar was an abstinent and where it hot him...

Please let us know how you plan to drink at least a glass of wine tomorrow in honor of Anna Perenna (preferably also libating a gulp to her), asking for one or many more years for yourselves, and for Nova Roma. Let's celebrate the Anna Perenna Day, the Ides of March, tomorrow, as the Romans did, and by doing so, honor the closing of our 23rd Anniversary Games, the LUDI NOVI ROMANI!

Io Concordia! Io Ludi Novi Romani! Vivat Nova Roma, optima, maxima!

Cn. Lentulus, quaestor, pontifex
praefectus rei publicae adminstrandae
curator rei informaticae








Re: LUDI NOVI ROMANI MMDCCLXXIV - VIRTUAL CHARIOT RACE, First Semifinal

P. Annaeus Constantinus Placidus, aedilis curulis
 

Placidus Lentulo amico s.d. 
Unfirtunately you did not qualify - Dorothea was strong and shrewd, but she lost to Tutor's philosophic, impassible Stoicus. Also very unfortunately, this edition of the Chariot Race allows only the winner of each Semifinal to qualify for the Final.

I wish you all the best of luck for the next race! 

Optime vale, 
Placidus





Lentulus P. Annaeo aedili optimo s. p. d.

Heck, I lost first place, P. Placide, aedilis optime, does that mean I am not in the final? Thank you for the lovely virtual show, and good luck to my friend tr. pl. Sex. Lucilius Tutor, vir censorius.

Io Concordia, Io Ludi Novi Romani, vivant aediles Placidus et Paterculus!

CN. LENT. Q. PONT.





Il venerdì 12 marzo 2021, 03:08:54 CET, P. Annaeus Constantinus Placidus, aedilis curulis <ugo.coppola1970@...> ha scritto:


Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus omnibus in Foro s.p.d.

You are about to read my account of the First Semifinal of the Virtual Chariot Race for the LUDI NOVI ROMANI 2774 a.U.c. The narrative is, as usual for me, very long and very detailed, with lots of characters and lots of events; it is mostly comedic in tone, but it also includes serious passages. Most importantly, in this narrative I am costantly mixing ancient and modern. So you have a Chariot Race happening exactly as the Chariot Races used to happen in Ancient Rome's golden years, but you've also got television, cameras, smartphones etc. etc. This is because the temporal setting of the story is TODAY rather than Roman Republican times, and the spatial setting of the story is not Rome, but the fictional city of Nova Roma, which is an idealized, stylized representation of what Ancient Rome would be, were it alive and thriving today. The narrative is written in the guise of a script for a fictional television broadcast.

You are all invited to read and enjoy this narrative, always keeping in mind that nothing at all of this is intended to represent or emulate reality. It's fiction. :-)

Optime valete omnes,
P. Annæus Constantinus Placidus
Ædilis Curuls Novæ Romæ

__________________________________________

The broadcast opens on a blurred image, on a light blue background, of a one-handed electronic clock in white script. The one hand counts down from ten to zero. On minus five seconds, a female voice is faintly heard in the background:
…and we’re on in five, four, three, two… “one” is not heard. The screen goes black and immediately lights up again into the full sunlight of a glorious early afternoon in Nova Roma. It is Ludi time. Strains of the usual heroic theme for horns, which is the signature tune of all Ludi events, are heard, while an aerial camera makes a full pan around the Circus Maximus. It is an extremely unusual and, at the same time, startling view, as the bleachers in the Circus are completely devoid of an audience. Ten camera operators, behind high-tech HDTV cameras, are plainly visible, in their short black workmen’s tunics, instead of being hidden in the crowd as usual. Puffs of green, red and blue coloured smoke emerge every now and then from various points on the bleachers – these are all rigged and artificial, as there is no one lighting up any smoke generators. The only people who seem to be quite ready to enjoy the show about to start are four prætextati people sitting in the front row on the left side of the Circus. An elderly but very dignified woman is among them. About one minute into the pan, a superimposed title appears in red-golden Roman epigraphic script: LVDI NOVI ROMANI | VIRTVAL CHARIOT RACE | FIRST SEMIFINAL | Directed for TV by C. TVLLIA CELERIS.

Immediately after the pan finishes, the shot changes to the inside of the TV broadcast center, on top of the Circus. The camera is behind the crew. Director Tullia Celeris is sitting in the center, her back to the camera. Next to her, on both sides, male and female TV operators are sitting and looking at monitors. They are all very young, and all of them wear white, shell-shaped civilian face masks. Suddenly the entrance door is heard opening and closing with a loud slam. Placidus enters from rear left. He wears completely anti-historical clothes, consisting in his full Italian firefighter operational uniform: a heavy black fireproof jacket with reflective yellow/silver stripes on his wrists and along the front of the jacket, fireproof trousers with yellow stripes, heavy military-like black amphibian boots on his feet, long fireproof gloves on his hands featuring two reflective stripes and the National Firefighters Corps’ flames-and-axes logo, and a red protective helmet on his head, which features a dark-golden visor and the same flame logo as a 3D relief item on his forehead. His face is not seen, hidden behind the mirrored visor. He has come in straight from active firefighting duty. He steps heavily with his boots on the marble floor. Tullia hears him and turns. At the same time, the entire crew also spins on their respective chairs… the boys are happy and give big thumbs up to Placidus, the girls scream out excitedly and survey Placidus’s uniform from head to toe – their eyes are a mix of dreamy admiration and love toward what they regard as a real-life, uniformed superhero.

tullia (to Placidus, very happy). PLACIDE!! (Pause.) You’re finally here! (Grabbing her hips with both hands, ironically and with a hint of sarcasm.) Been putting out fires all around Nova Roma again, haven’t you?

placidus (lifting his visor, slightly tired). Well, yes, Tullia, I have – quite literally, as you can see. (He giggles.) No, sorry, I really did. I’ve just finished my shift. Am I late?

tullia (giggling as well). Placide, did you bother to take a look outside? There’s nobody out there. (She smiles.) So there’s no point in having a parade. There’s no point in you or anybody else doing, say, a welcoming lap around the racetrack. There’s no point in having the racers come out and set up on the starting line. There’s no point in absolutely anything of this. So, indeed, there is no point in coming early or late.

placidus (relieved, exhaling heavily). Pheeew! (He unties his helmet and removes it.) Do you mean I actually have time to get rid of all this stuff and change into more fitting clothing?!

tullia. Yes, of course you do – your prætexta and your calcei are there in the back… you certainly don’t want to greet your TV audience in THOSE boots, do you? (She laughs. Placidus does as well.) Go change yourself, great fireman. I’ll just do another pan – I have plenty of time to fill, here. (She smiles. Pause. The shot changes again into the one on the Circus. The camera stops on the electronic billboard, where a computer animation of the racetrack, with racing chariots, is seen. After less than two minutes of this, the camera moves to the concrete stairway next to the broadcast center. Placidus comes rapidly down on it – now dressed, in a perfectly historical way, in his full toga prætexta. He carries a wireless mic in his right hand. Very much at ease in his toga, he descends the steps quickly, accompanied by the signature tune, and comes into the center of the racetrack, opposite the magistrates, where he stops. Suddenly, huge, pre-recorded applause and cheering is heard. Placidus makes a faint smile, slightly embarassed, faces the camera and starts talking into his mic.)

placidus (very formally). Ladies and gentlemen, domini dominæque, iuvenes, pueri puellæque… in one word, everybody in front of your TV screens… welcome here to the First Semifinal of the Virtual Chariot Race for the Ludi Novi Romani 2021! (Loud applause – this time clearly perceivable as fake, as it rapidly fades in and out with no definite start and no definite stop.) This is Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus and I’m talking to you LIVE from the Circus Maximus in Nova Roma. (Pause. The applause does not stop – it fades back in and back out.) Excuse me for a moment, folks. I have to say a word to my great director Tullia up there in the broadcast center. (He pushes his earphone in his right ear.) Tullia? [tullia. Yes, Ædilis? Placidus giggles.] I can’t understand what’s up with you every single time. I was Placidus to you not later than six minutes ago, and now I’m Ædilis? Did I graduate to anything in this extremely brief lapse of time? (He giggles again.)

tullia (from earphone). Six minutes ago you were here, Ædilis. It was the intro. Now you’re on the racetrack. It’s official. Simply by virtue of you being on the racetrack, you’re not just Placidus any longer. You’re Nova Roma’s beloved Ædilis Curulis.

placidus. Oh. Okay, then. (Pause.) Regardless of what or who I am, Tullia, what’s all of this fake applause thing? Excuse my language, but to me it’s just crap. (Pause.) You have amply made your point, with your opening pan, and also earlier, when I was up there with you, that there’s no audience. Everybody knows why there’s no audience, it’s not worth repeating. Still, I’m hearing applause and cheering as if this whole 10000-seater arena was filled to its utmost capacity. Again, forgive me, but this is plain silly.

tullia. (calmly and gently) My dear Ædilis, maybe you still don’t have a clear vision of what you’re hosting. (Shot on her.) This is not real. This is a show. Covid-19 is real. People dying everyday around the world are real. Intensive care wards in hospitals everywhere on the brink of collapsing are real. Even us behind the scenes, being forced to wear these stupid muzzles on our faces, while you’re privileged enough not to… (Pause. Slight giggle from Placidus)… we’re real. I’m real. You’re real. The people sitting opposite you are real. The chariot owners, their racers, are real. But everything else is not real. It’s entertainment. It’s a show – we’re putting on a show. We have to make people watching this on TV feel like they’re watching a show. After all, Ædilis, who do you think we’re running this race for? For a live audience? (Pause. She shakes her head.) Not really. Sure, if a live audience was there, they would enjoy the show. But they would get nothing else from it. The racers do get something, because there’s the Nova Roma Virtual Chariot Racing championship always going on. We’re not running our races for a live audience. If anybody, we’re running the races for the people who actually take their time to set up their chariots and bring them here. It’s them, the people who actually run, the ones we’re setting up this show for. Fake applause is part of the show. So you do your job down there and I do mine up here. Part of my job is putting applause and shouting where applause and shouting are supposed to be, even if there’s nobody applauding and shouting. (She smiles. The shot goes back to Placidus, who has suddenly become serious and ready to do his job.)

placidus. I agree with everything you say, amica mea. And I accept everything that you do up there. [tullia (from earphone). Thanks, Ædilis. Now you may start. Pause. Placidus looks into the camera.] Okay, folks out there in TV-land, sorry for this short and unforeseen diversion. I am really ready now. First of all I would like to say hello and welcome to our most honourable magistrates sitting in front of me… (Pause. The shot changes to the magistrates.) From left to right, my Plebeian colleague Marcus Aurelius Cotta Iovis, my mate in the Curule Ædilitas Aulus Iulius Paterculus… (Pause. As Placidus calls the magistrates, they get up one by one, accompanied by faint pre- recorded applause in the background. Paterculus holds a red nappa in his right hand and a blue surgical mask is hanging from his neck, but he is not wearing it. Placidus resumes.)… and our esteemed Consuls, Quintus Arrius Nauta and Domina Aula Tullia Scholastica. (Pause. To Scholastica) Domina Scholastica, thanks very much for taking some of your precious time to come here. That’s very kind of you. (Pause. The shot moves to her. scholastica. Thank you, dear Ædilis, for taking some of your own time off your precious macronational work to set up and organize all of this. You have such a wonderful dedication to everything you do. Pause. The shot goes back to Placidus, who is slightly blushing.)

placidus (smiling). Thanks, domina. I really don’t deserve any of this. I’m just a very humble firefighter who just happens to wear a toga prætexta every now and then. (Short pause. Tullia is heard giggling from the earphone.) Anyway, I think it’s time to meet the racers now… (Pause. He looks up to the broadcasting center and sees that Tullia is looking behind her. He pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, what’s up?

tullia (initially from the earphone, then the shot moves to her). Sorry, Placide, I heard the door opening and closing. You know all too well that nobody’s supposed to enter here while a broadcast is in progress. Unless you’re expecting somebody.

placidus (suddenly remembering). Oh! Yes, I am. Please let him in. (Pause. A man, younger, shorter and plumper than Placidus, appears in one of the windows of the broadcast center. He has a beard and a very sunny, happy face. He is dressed with a very elegant, and very historically correct, toga angusticlavia, and he appears to wear nothing underneath it. He gives a broad smile. and makes wild waving gestures with his right hand, held up high, to salute Placidus. The shot moves behind him and Tullia.)

tullia. Who is this, Ædilis? I suppose he’s a friend of yours, otherwise he wouldn’t be here at all. (Pause. The man smiles to her, another very broad, sunny smile.)

placidus. Of course he’s a friend. Indeed, I’ll tell you more. He may be the only real friend I currently have outside of my colleagues. (Pause. More formal) Tullia, please meet my current and wonderful scuba diving instructor, Manius Flavius Salvus. You can safely shake his hand, he’s just been test-swabbed and came out negative. (Pause. Tullia and Salvus shake hands.) Tullia, I love that man. He and his team brought me very safely down to more than 108 feet in Sicily last summer. [tullia (from Placidus’s earphone). Wooooooowww! That’s something! Pause. Back to Placidus.] Yes, wow indeed. He actually did. (Pause. In a darker tone) Then something happened I don’t want to talk about, and I couldn’t get a certification with him. (Pause. More neutral) But still I love him dearly, and I’m going back to Sicily with him next summer to get that card again. Please give him a mic and put him on the PA, I want to talk with him. (Pause. Tullia gives Salvus a hand-held mic and pushes a button on her console. Back to Placidus.) Salve, can you hear me? At last I can see you face-to-face instead of only through a computer screen.

salvus (smiling broadly, as above, and with a Sicilian accent, his voice booming through the PA and echoing in the empty Circus). Hello, Ugo! (Pause.) No, wait, what’s your name here? It’s not even Cosworth… (Pause. Placidus laughs.) Oh, right. (He remembers.) Salve, Ædilis Placide. Is that right, isn’t it? You’re a high ranking person in here, and congrats for that.

placidus. Oh no, amice. I’m wearing different clothes from the wetsuit I had when you taught me, but I’m the same person you taught to. Nothing’s changed. (Pause.) Anway, let’s not lose any more time with greetings. Come down here, we’ve got a race to chronicle! (He giggles. The shot moves again to the outside of the broadcast center. Salvus is seen pulling out a white surgical mask and wearing it, then he comes rapidly down the stairs and joins Placidus in the middle of the racetrack. Fake applause in the background. Placidus introduces him formally.) Ladies and gentlemen in front of your TV screen, my assistant chronicler for this wonderful Virtual Chariot Race… from Panormus, Sicily, dominus Manius Flavius Salvus! (Pause. He raises Salvus’s left arm. Huge, roaring pre-recorded applause. Salvus is slightly embarassed. He talks to Placidus in a low voice.)

salvus (slightly muffled through his mask). Placide, apart that I don’t deserve any of this… [placidus (overlapping and smiling) You do, amice. You amply do.]… I’m a soldier. I know nothing at all about chariot racing. How am I supposed to chronicle if I don’t know what I’m watching?

placidus. Don’t worry, buddy. (Pause.) First of all, remove that silly thing off your mouth. You’re my guest here and I allow you to. I’m in command. (He lets out a slight laugh while thinking of his actual ‘in-command’ role in his real-life job. Salvus laughs as well and removes his mask.) As I was saying, buddy… (Pause. Salvus is very happy about Placidus calling him ‘buddy’, as he did during their scuba training.)…while I introduce the racers, you go sit there next to my colleague Paterculus. (Pause. Placidus points to Paterculus opposite him.) Patercule, please, you and Cotta Iovis move one seat to the right so that my friend can sit next to you. (Pause. Paterculus and Cotta do.) He will explain you everything.

salvus. Thank you, Placide. (He goes to sit next to Paterculus.)

placidus. You’re welcome, buddy. (Pause. Placidus pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, please, give me the starting grid for this First Semifinal. The three in the first batch. (Pause. Shot on the electronic billboard on top of the Circus. Three lines come out of it, each one pulled by an animated silhouette of a racing chariot, respectively in bright green, bright red and bright blue.)

LANE     CHARIOT            OWNER                        DRIVER      TEAM

I               Phoenix Furiens     M. Hortensia Maior        Hyppolita       PRÆSINA

II              Nova Roma            Cn. Cornelius Lentulus  Dorothea        RUSSATA

III            Titans’ Disaster      Sex. Lucilius Tutor         Stoicus           VENETA

After all the lines have disappeared from the screen, the shot goes back to Placidus, who is chatting with Salvus, sitting in the front row.

placidus. OK, bro… (Salvus smiles, hearing Placidus call him with another nickname from their training period.) I hope you have a little bit more understanding on what you’re about to witness.

salvus. Yes, Placide, I think I got a clear picture of it all, your friend Paterculus is good. (Pause. He smiles to Paterculus, who smiles back and gives Salvus a thumb-up.) Not a detailed picture, mind you. A very broad one. (He giggles.) The only thing I’m a bit doubtful about is racing tactics. Your friend listed them, but I don’t quite know what he meant…

placidus (patting Salvus on the shoulder). My friend, never mind the tactics. You shall understand them when you see them in action here on the racetrack, and I guarantee you that (giggling) sparks will fly. Quite literally.

salvus. We shall see to that, Placide. We’ll see.

placidus. Sure, buddy. (Pause.) Before we start, I have just another little thing to do, which is introducing the racers. I see some familiar faces in here, I’ve got a feeling that this is going to be quick. (Pause. He approaches Hortensia on Lane I.) Domina Hortensia Maior Fabiana Faustina, welcome back to the racetrack, with a new chariot and… (he looks up) a new charioteer… a young, strong, and pretty girl! (Pause. Shot on Hippolyta, on the chariot. Her face is beautiful, like a modern fashion model, but she also has sharp, sculpted features – typical of a strong, rough woman. She has very long blond hair, wavy but unkempt as well. She holds her Amazon helmet under her right arm. She smiles at Placidus and gives him a thumb-up. Placidus resumes talking to Hortensia. She is wearing a face mask made out of fine white silk.) Sorry again, domina, if we couldn’t get your full Roman name on the billboard, but you see, that’s all the space we have.     

hortensia (very gently). My dear Ædilis Placide, you know very well that you’re way too kind to apologize to me for anything. And, like domina Scholastica said a few minutes ago, your kindness also shows in the fact that, in spite of everything you have to go through in your life outside of here, you did manage to organize this wonderful race. (Pause. Placidus blushes slightly.) Of course I couldn’t miss it, could I? (Pause.) As for my new charioteer… well, I’ve traveled quite a bit before the damned pandemic hit the entire known world, and on a trip to Scythia last November I happened to watch this fantastic Amazon girl rider having her way with a pure-breed horse like a man… or, I may say, better than a man. She’s extremely fierce, she’s strong-willed and strong-armed, and, as I hope you’ve been able to see, she’s got her looks, which is a plus.

placidus (embarassed). Er… yes, I’m quite aware of her… er… good looks. (He giggles.) Sorry, domina, I’m a man. I can’t help that.

hortensia. Never mind, Ædilis. Please go on.

placidus (still a bit embarassed). Okay, er… (Pause.) All best of luck for this race to you and your new pilot. [hortensia (overlapping). Thanks again, Ædilis. Pause. Placidus moves to Lane II, where Lentulus is standing next to his old-but-refurbished racing chariot, Nova Roma. Placidus is enthusiastic at seeing his long-time assistant and friend. He is wearing a white surgical mask.] LENTULE!! What a pleasure! You’ve managed to enter your chariot once again! [He moves to hug him, but Lentulus stops him with a gesture of his right hand.]

lentulus. Stop right there, Placide amice. (Pause.) I know you love me dearly as a friend, but you’re also our Ædilis Curulis, so behave as such. Be dignified. (Pause. Placidus smiles and distances himself.) Not to mention your wonderful uniform and your position in real life… you’re in the Law Enforcement business, and that gives you both the right to exercise your power, and the duty to be dignified and correct – even with close friends. (Pause. Placidus smiles again and makes a small bow, then resumes talking.)

placidus. Yes, my friend, you’re right as usual. (Pause.) It’s just that I still have to get used to my position – both here and outside of here. Most probably I never will. (Pause. He looks up to Dorothea on the chariot.) But apart from this, please allow me to repeat that it’s indeed a great pleasure to see both of you once again you and your great lioness up there, helming your chariot… or is she a panther? (Pause. Dorothea lifts her head up high, with pride, and lets out a long laugh. Long, wild brown hair, a body armour, but no helmet and no face mask.)

dorothea (sarcastically, to Placidus). You can call me whatever animal you want, Ædilis, but the point is that I am an animal. And I’m going to show that first of all to that made-up chick here next to me in Lane I. (She laughs again. Hippolyta, in Lane I, looks at her with a snobbish attitude. While Placidus has just realized that this is going to be his first-ever race featuring two woman racers, and an amazed sparks-are-indeed-going-to-fly look quickly passes on his face, Lentulus tries to shush up his charioteer.)

lentulus. Dorothea, please behave. You’re talking to a magistrate.

dorothea (still a bit sarcastic). Yeah, I know. (Pause. To Lentule). Master Lentule, you freed me a long time ago, and I thank you for that. Now I’m yours, but you know you can’t change the way I am. (Proudly) Nobody can.

lentulus (humbly, to Placidus). Sorry about her, Placide. As you say in Italy, I wanted my bicycle, now I’ve got to pedal. (He giggles.)

placidus (giggling as well). Yes, my friend, I get that. (Pause.) Well, I wish you good luck to you and your… er, animal up there. (Pause. Lentulus gives Placidus a thumb-up while Dorothea laughs again. Placidus moves to Lane III.) Hey, another familiar face here too… (He moves to Lucilius. He also wears a white respirator mask like the TV crew members. He is unconfortable with it.) Lucili, as a former Ædilician colleague of yours, I must say I’m pleased to find you here on the racetrack as well. And I’m also pleased to see your great Stoicus at the helm once again.

lucilius (adjusting his mask, which is slipping down his nose) Yes, Ædilis, it’s been quite a while since I left my footprints… (Pause. He looks down and sees he is, ironically, not leaving any footprints at all…)… er, since I last stepped with my calcei here on the sand in the racetrack. As for Stoicus, well, he too was looking forward to coming back here controlling the reins of two mighty horses… (Pause. He adjusts his mask again.) Oh, to hell with this stupid thing. I wish all this dreaded disease would just fly away and disappear. Don’t you, Ædilis? [placidus (slightly overlapping) Yes, Lucili amice, I do too. Pause. Lucilius resumes.]  Anyway, as you can see, Stoicus is fully primed and ready to race. (Pause. Placidus looks up at Stoicus on the chariot. He is indeed ready – his brand new body armor is already correctly tied, and he has already worn his protective helmet. The look on his face is extremely dignified and serious and, faithfully to his name, he shows no sign of emotion at all.)

placidus. Well, Lucili, I can see that he’s amply ready to race. (Pause.) Primed… er… (he chuckles slightly)… I’m afraid I can’t say that for sure, just looking at him.

lucilius (giving Placidus a thumb-up). Yes, that’s precisely his attitude: keeping it all inside of himself. I like him a lot just because of that.

placidus (sort-of thinking aloud) Well, Lucili, keeping everything inside of oneself is perfect in this frenetic world’s everyday life, but I wonder how much he’s going to hold that up during a wild chariot race. (Pause.) Anyway, right now, as with the others, I can only wish good luck to you and him for this great race. (Pause. Lucilius bows and Placidus goes back to his monitor next to the front row bleachers, where Salvus is sitting at ease, but the seat to his right is empty: Paterculus is not there. Placidus is puzzled and thinks aloud again… Where’s he gone?? Then he remembers having seen him with the red nappa in his hand: he is going to start the race. Indeed, he looks behind him and sees Paterculus, behind the starting line, approaching the official starter’s podium next to the spina wall. Placidus looks relieved.)

salvus. What’s up, Ugo… er, Placide? Were you looking for your friend? He’s right there (pointing to Paterculus), just about to climb on that small red pulpit.

placidus (giggling at Salvus’s definition). Pulpit… erm, buddy, to us that’s a podium. The starter’s podium. Now my colleague is going to officially set them all off.

salvus. Yes, I know. (Pause.) I’ve seen something similar on TV in other… er, other contexts than this.

placidus. Good for you, buddy. Just one more thing before we start. When I say ‘over to you’ or something similar or anyway I invite you to talk, just pick up where I left off and continue. OK? (He makes a diver’s A-OK sign with three fingers. Salvus replies with the same sign. Placidus turns to Paterculus.) All right, Patercule collega. You may go. (Pause. Shot on Paterculus. He has worn a white respirator too, by now. He looks at Placidus, who gives him a thumb-up.) Amice, you know what to do just right after you start, don’t you?

paterculus. Sure, collega. (Pause.) You taught me. Indeed, you taught us all.

placidus. Well, not that I’m aware of, but go ahead. (Pause. Paterculus lifts his nappa up high.)

paterculus. Attention, pilots! (Pause.) Three… two… one… (He drops the nappa.) GO!!! (The horses run away furiously. Immediately, Paterculus jumps up the spina wall and stands there, proudly erect and motionless, a true Roman Ædilis. Then he shakes off just a little bit of dust from his toga, which is still immaculate, and he walks across the racetrack to his seat, accompanied by pre-recorded applause. He goes to sit next to Salvus, who is amazed.)

salvus. Wow, Placide! (Pause.) Were you actually the first to do that stunt? That’s wonderful!

placidus. Yes, and there’s really nothing ‘wow’ about it. Once I was the starter, and I didn’t want to get my toga dirty, so I improvised. (Pause.) Glad to know somebody’s learned from me. Anyway, there’s no more time to talk, as we’re into…

LAP I

(Shot on the racetrack, Placidus starts his chronicle.) All the chariots are definitely up to a very good start, I see. Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster, in Lane III, advances slightly more than Dorothea on Nova Roma in Lane III. Hippolyta on Phoenix is momentarily left behind… apparently the lone boy on track is way more determined than the two girls, isn’t he, buddy?

salvus. Well, yes, Placide. What did you say he was in everyday life? A philosopher? A thinker?  He doesn’t look like that to me – he looks way more like a soldier. One of my kind. (He smiles)

placidus. Maybe it’s his Stoicism indeed – his way to keep an inner calm among all possible turmoil – which makes him as strong as a valiant soldier in battle, and maybe even more. I guess we should ask him, but I doubt he’ll answer. (Pause. Shot on the racetrack.) Now look at that, buddy. (While Stoicus and Hippolyta slow down to turn around the bend in the safest and most possibly correct way, Dorothea passes it extremely close to the tip of the wall. She almost risks scraping her left wheel against the wall. Once again Salvus is amazed. Placidus looks at him.)

salvus. Placide, have you seen what she’s done?? But is she actually… crazy? She nearly broke her wheel!

placidus. Buddy, what was I telling you earlier, about seeing tactics in action rather than explaining them? That’s one. (He smiles.) I’ve seen her doing that way too many times to know that she’s not crazy at all. That’s her tactic. While the others slow down in order to take the bend without any harm, she doesn’t change her pace and gets near the wall. Sure, that’s a big risk of actually hitting it. But, as you see, she’s now leading, so it was worth the risk. Would you please continue up to the second straight line and second curve, then I pick it up again for the end of the first lap? (Pause. Salvus, still a bit shaken, is perplexed. Placidus utters the code-words.) Over to you, buddy.

salvus. Oh, OK. (getting back into it) Let’s see now. Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster, which up to the first bend was solidly in the lead, is now paired with Dorothea on Nova Roma, but Hippolyta on Phoenix Furiens is quickly catching up with her. (Pause and shot on the racetrack. Hippolyta bends over to the right, she grabs some sand off the racetrack and, getting momentarily nearer to Dorothea, throws the dust right in her face. Dorothea is blinded for a second, she lets go of her reins, slows down and Hippolyta overtakes her. Immediately she starts shouting. The absence of the audience makes it possible for the cameras on the bleachers to pick up her shouting, which is unusually clearly heard.)

dorothea (shouting). You bastard! You cheater! You rabid bitch!! If I catch you I’ll rip your head off your neck and then I’ll pee into your oh-so-nice silver helmet!! (Pause. Shot back to Salvus, whose mouth has gaped. He opens and closes it twice without saying a word, like a goldfish. Placidus is amused. Then Salvus finally manages to speak. He stutters.)

salvus. Pla-Placide! (Pause.) Now you don— you don’t tell me that all of this I’ve just seen – and heard! – is actually allowed in here. OK, I’ve seen and heard worse in my battlefield days on active duty, but I frankly didn’t expect to witness that sort of thing also in here.

placidus. My dear friend, not only it’s allowed… (chuckling) It’s normal. It’s routine. It’s tactics. It happens at almost every single race. (Pause. Salvus is relieved and a wide smile appears on his face.) Also, about the language, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what normally happens in here. Which reminds me of one thing… would you excuse me for just a minute, buddy? [salvus. Of course. Placidus pushes on his earphone.] Tullia? [tullia (from earphone). Tell me, Ædilis.] Tullia, please, really you can’t call me just Placidus? [tullia (partly apologizing). Not while you’re on the racetrack, Ædilis Placide. Now tell me.] OK, let’s see how far can we take this game. (Pause. Tullia laughs from the earphone.) Tullia, you’ve always got a one-second delay in the audio up there. If you hear anything worse than that, be ready with your hand on that big censoring red button up there. (Pause.) In the past, of course, I did that on purpose. But now I really wasn’t expecting to hear all of that so loud and clear. I forgot that there’s no audience. (He giggles.) Anyway, back to the race. This little amount of trouble to Dorothea has made her slip back in third place. Hippolyta is a very close second to Stoicus, who took advantage of the distractions behind him to regain a bit of his lost lead. (Shot on the racetrack.) Now the chariots are doing the second bend, and while Stoicus and Hippolyta can take their time to actually do it with care, so to speak, Dorothea speeds up, passes it nearer to the wall and pairs up with Hippolyta, or very nearly so. (Pause.) So, on the finish line, Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster crosses first, followed by Hippolyta on Phoenix Furiens and, very very very close, Dorothea on Nova Roma. (Pause. Shot on the dolphins pole above the Circus. The second dolphin bows down.) I’ve just seen that one more dolphin above there isn’t straight any longer, which can mean only one thing: we’ve just started…

LAP II

salvus (looking at the dolphins pole in his monitor). Hey, Placide. The dolphins. Nice touch. Just like in the old times.

placidus. Well, buddy, we’re all about reconstructionism here. If we can do anything in a properly historical way, we just do it. (Pause.) Would you care to start this lap?

salvus. Of course. I’m honored. (Pause.) Phoenix Furiens and Nova Roma have restarted their powerful attack on Titans’ Disaster, which is now slightly leading again. Now Stoicus is slightly accelerating… is that a tactic, Placide amice?

placidus. Let me see. (He pulls his smartphone out of a fold in his toga, he turns it on, he slides a finger over the display and reads: “Hurry in the straight lines”.) Yes, buddy, that’s it. (He shows the smartphone to Salvus long enough for him to read the line about Stoicus, but not long enough for him to read the other lines. In spite of this, Salvus smiles and resumes narrating.)  

salvus. OK, folks at home, as you have just heard from my mate Placidus here next to me… (Pause. Placidus smiles)… Stoicus’s chosen tactic has allowed him to set himself in first position once again. But here comes the first bend, so let’s see how it goes. (Shot on the racetrack. Salvus is heard off-screen.) Stoicus speeds up just a little bit more, then he slows down exactly at the most critical point of the whole bend – the tip of the spina wall – so he manages to go around it very easily, very correctly, and also without deviating from his proper path. Hippolyta follows, almost exactly like her opponent has done, and a bit later here comes Dorothea at full speed and passing very near the spina, as previously. Placide, if you forgive me the cheap joke, these people are so good at going around those bends, that they’re not afraid at all of getting the bends!! (He laughs. Placidus laughs too.)

placidus. That joke isn’t cheap at all, buddy. Instead it’s very good. Only, I would kindly ask you not to do it again, because it reminds me too much of a person who I used to do that joke with, and who I thought was very similar to you, but he later turned out to be completely different.

salvus. Oh, I do have an idea about who that may be. Isn’t his name somewhere along the lines of Marcus Petronius Ior—

placidus (interrupting him just in time). Yes. That’s him. (Darkly) I don’t want to talk about him, because something related to you happened last year between me and him. Something I didn’t like, and I don’t want to talk about that either. (More neutral) Let’s talk about something else.

salvus. Yes, Placide, I understand. Let’s talk about the race. (Pause.) Up to now in this lap there have been no dirty tricks, and I really hope that there aren’t going to be any more of them…

placidus. I hope too, buddy, but if I were you I honestly wouldn’t hold my breath.

salvus. Of course I’m not, Placide. I’m a scuba instructor. I’m not a freediver. (He laughs again. His laughter is contagious.)

placidus (laughing) Ha-ha-ha-ha… Bro, you have such a wonderful way of making everything I say so much lighter than it actually is. I love you dearly, brother. (Pause. Salvus is moved by Placidus actually using the full word rather than as a nickname, and quietly whispers: Thank you, brother.) Now can I please do the rest of the lap?

salvus. Suit yourself, Placide.

placidus. Thanks, buddy. (Pause.) So, while everything went well for all three racers in the first bend, the race is again developing on the second straight line. Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster keeps leading, very slightly ahead of Nova Roma’s Dorothea, while, also very close to her, Hippolyta is insulting her in what sounds to my ears like ancient Afghan… but I don’t understand a single word of it. Do you, buddy?

salvus. No, I don’t. And yet I’ve spent quite some time in Afghanistan…

placidus. So we can allow ourselves not to care about that at all and to care just about the race. (He chuckles. Shot on the racetrack.) And what I’m seeing just now is Hippolyta about to pull out another dirty trick on Dorothea. (Pause. Hippolyta is seen unrolling a whip behind the front of her chariot. She snaps it first in the air above her, then on Dorothea, whose body armor covers her breasts, her abdomen and her back, but not her shoulders. Snap! Hippolyta’s whip hits hard on Dorothea’s left shoulder, leaving a faint red mark. She winces, then she does something unclear and unseen to Hippolyta. Nothing happens. Hippolyta then reaches her neck out to Dorothea and she also does something unseen to her. Dorothea puts her arm in front of her eyes, slows down, but this does not allow Hippolyta to overtake her. The positions remain unchanged. Placidus pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, please, give me an instant replay of that from another angle. And zoom on those two, er, maids. (Pause. Salvus is heard laughing loudly next to Placidus.)

salvus. “Maids”… (laughing) You’re quite something, Placide. No wonder the main host of these Virtual Race events is always you. Nobody beats you. (He laughs again. Pause. The shot changes to a slo-mo instant replay of the scene, seen from another camera on the bleachers. Immediately after Hippolyta has hit Dorothea, she spits in Hippolyta’s face. The latter turns sharply, and the spit hits the left side of her helmet. Immediately after that, Hippolyta spits in Dorothea’s face. She wears no helmet, and the target is hit. Dorothea wipes off the spit, but she does not slow down enough for Hippolyta to speed past her. The shot goes back to Placidus. He and Salvus are chuckling together.)

placidus. Seen that, buddy? This has suddenly turned into a spitting match. Not even two cowboys in the Wild West could do any better. That’s why… “maids”.

salvus. Indeed, Placide. You hit the nail right on the head. As always. (Pause. Dorothea is passing right opposite the point where Placidus is broadcastig from. Placidus teases her.)

placidus. Now you see, my dear, what’s the DISadvantage of not wearing a helmet?

dorothea. (shouting wildly, while racing along the straight line) SHUT UP, ÆDILIS!! (Pause. Placidus is struck and he does shut up for a few seconds.)

salvus. Placide amice, I have a feeling that if that girl put her racing horses where her mouth is, she’d be world champion in chariot racing. (He giggles. Placidus looks at him with admiration.)

placidus (jokingly) Congrats, buddy! You’re becoming good at this. So good, in fact, that I allow you the honor to conclude this lap, from the second bend onwards.

salvus. And I very gladly do that, amice. (Pause.) Well, all of the hustle-and-bustle happening now between Dorothea, Hippolyta and, yes, you as well… (Pause. Placidus laughs.)… may have contributed to switching their respective positions along the straight line, but now she’s just done such a masterful turn of the bend… so close, in fact, to the the spina wall that I can almost hear the hubcap of her left wheel scraping the wall… but, luckily for her, she doesn’t. So here’s how they cross the finish line in the second lap: Titans’ Disaster driven by Stoicus leads the race, Nova Roma with Dorothea is back in second place and, extremely close to it, Phoenix Furiens driven by Hippolyta. Now I guess that the third dolphin above there is about to go to sleep… isn’t it, Placide? (Shot of the dolphins pole, where the third dolphin bows down.)

placidus. Exactly, buddy. Just as I said before, you’re becoming much better than me at this. I’ll tell you something… (ironically) YOU host the next race and I rest!

salvus (chuckling). No, Placide. This is not my world. My world is up there in the cold waters in the lakes near Modicia, or in the warmer waters down in Sicily, but always with my trainees. That’s where my world is. This is your world. I ain’t taking your world away from you. Indeed, I advise you to keep a firm grip on it, because you’re the best. (Pause. Placidus smiles a childish smile to Salvus.)

placidus. Thanks, bro, you’re too kind. Everybody has something they’re best at. Yours is teaching how to dive, mine is NOT hosting chariot races, but let’s not go into that any further (chuckling) as we’ve got a magnificent race to finish, as indeed it’s just gone into…

LAP III

salvus. I’ll let your start this, Placide. As I said, this is your terrain.

placidus. Thanks a lot, buddy. (Pause.) Well, now that this exciting race is heading towards its conclusion, I don’t think there’s time for tactics any longer, but in several years of chronicling these races I’ve got so much used to unusual things happening all the time, that I can’t really say anything more… can I, buddy?

salvus (shaking his head and chuckling) No, Placide, you can’t. I’ve been a personal witness of this up to now, I don’t think anything can change in the last lap.

placidus. I don’t think so either, unless Hippolyta employs another of her tricks… or better, Lady Hortensia’s tricks, as she’s the one who chose the tactic. She’s the bad girl in here, much worse than her charioteer. (Pause. While the slightly darker afternoon hour allows for the powerful halogen lights on the four corners of the Circus to light up faintly, Placidus eyes Hortensia sitting alone four rows behind the magistrates, and waves to her. Hortensia responds by barely lifting her hand and wiggling her fingers, as if she knew what Placidus is talking about. Lentulus is also sitting alone, in the row behind Hortensia’s and very distanced from her. The shot goes back to Placidus, who resumes his chronicle.) On the first straight line, Stoicus is still leading, but as Dorothea is lashing her horses like mad and getting closer and closer and closer, he’s starting to feel his lead somehow menaced by Dorothea… in other words, he’s starting to feel Dorothea’s breath on his neck. (Pause. To Salvus) Isn’t this what the professionals say all the time, buddy?

salvus. Yes, exactly, Placide. Where did you learn to talk “sport” like that?

placidus. Here in the Circus, buddy. That’s where. After having hosted these races for more than 10 years. (He laughs. Salvus joins him but they both stop.) Let’s look at the racetrack, bro. What d’you say? (Pause.) Over to you, buddy.

salvus (surprised). Placide! You can’t throw the ball at me like tha— [He is stopped by Placidus whispering in his hear: Buddy, the race!] Oh, OK. (Pause. Shot on the racetrack.) Hippolyta is wielding her whip again! Just as her and Dorothea are entering the first bend – the great Stoicus has already passed it perfectly – she lashes at Dorothea. The latter shifts her body to the right and Hippolyta misses! (Pause) Here she goes again… snap! But Dorothea ducks and she misses again! And in the meantime they’re into the bend… Dorothea is millimetrically right in NOT hitting the spina wall… but Hippolyta, who’s apparently busier in trying to hit Dorothea than in driving her chariot, miscalculates the speed and she DOES very nearly hit the wall… she scrapes it with the left side of her chariot! (Pause. Scraping noise, not too loud. The hubcap on Phoenix Furiens’s left wheel slowly starts to come loose.) Phew! What an excitement, folks! Too much excitement for me… I’m very much used to the extreme calm of deep waters, and this madman at my side… (Placidus laughs) is mercilessly putting me through all this, so at this point I’ll very gladly let him go on.

placidus (still partly laughing). Okay, buddy, I do understand. (Remembering from earlier) Your world, my world. I do see. So, where are we at? (Pause. Shot on the racetrack.) The three chariots are racing very near to each other. Competing. Clearly Dorothea must’ve realized that her chances to win, and thus to move to the Final, are very close to non-existent, but also second place means something – for the overall score in the Championship. So she’s trying to do whatever she can to keep herself there in the second spot, while at the same time trying to avoid all direct attacks on her from her direct opponent – that is, of course, Hippolyta, who obviously longs for the second place herself. (Pause.) Now he’s extending her whip again… high up in the air… she lunges at Dorothea’s right shoulder, but she suddenly swerves to the right and Hippolyta misses again. (Pause. Excited, rhytmical breathing from Salvus.) Buddy, you seem to be actually enjoying this!

salvus. Well, yes, Placide. Actually I am. (Pause. Very quick breathing, almost like a dog.) Please don’t stop.

placidus. I won’t stop only if you calm down, my friend. After everything you’ve done for me, I certainly won’t be the one who’s responsible for giving you a heart attack or something. (Pause. Salvus does calm down.) That’s better, buddy. (He pats Salvus on his right shoulder.) Let’s see how all of this ends up. I’d like you to do it, bro.

salvus (still excited but much calmer) Okay, Placide. Here goes Hippolyta with her whip again… arm in the air… she extends it… but while she’s aiming to the point of Dorothea’s back where she may hurt her the most, she commits the most fatal mistake in chariot racing, which is… (Pause. He points to Placidus.)

placidus. Always look in front of you?

salvus. Exactly, buddy. (Pause. Placidus smiles at being called ‘buddy’ himself.) She gets closer to the spina wall in the middle of the racetrack… and closer… and closer… oh no, I don’t want to watch this! (He mockingly covers his eyes with one hand. CRASH! The left wheel on Phoenix Furiens suddenly hits the spina wall. The small metal hubcap at its center comes completely off and it is shown rolling across the sand. Salvus resumes.) What a hit, folks. Literally. (He giggles.) The left wheel on Hippolyta’s chariot wobbles just as she’s coming out of the second bend… Dorothea having made it perfectly, of course… and while Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster crosses the finish line first and lifts both his arms in the air, triumphantly, but with just a shadow of a smile going across his impassible face… (Pause.)… you conclude this, Placide.

placidus. Very gladly so, buddy. As my great mate Salvus has just said, while Stoicus enjoys his well-deserved victory, which brings him straight into the final, Dorothea manages to get her equally deserved Championship points by coming in second, and Phoenix Furiens, having completely lost its left wheel, crumbles miserably down on the ground at just a few meters from the finish line. A disgruntled and disappointed, but… (dreamily) oh-so-beautiful helmeted Amazon by the name of Hippolyta… (Pause. Salvus giggles at Placidus.) climbs off Phoenix Furiens and gives a mighty kick to her evidently weak chariot, making it tumble upside-down on the ground and effectively sealing its fate. (Pause. He looks at Salvus.) So Stoicus is the winner, animalish Dorothea gets her points, Hippolita gets nothing and… do you think there’s anything more to say for this great First Semifinal, buddy?

salvus (smiling to Placidus, another of his wide, sunny smiles) No, Placide. I’m most definitely not inclned to think so. I think we may say goodbye now.

placidus. Yes, we certainly may. (Pause. Very formal) Ladies and gentlemen, you have just witnessed the First Semifinal of the Virtual Chariot Race for the Ludi Novi Romani 2774 a.U.c. This is Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus…

salvus. …and this is his best buddy, Manius Flavius Salvus…

placidus. …and we’re signing off for today. See you all soon here, same place, same channel, for the Second Semifinal. (Pause. He pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, you may fade us out now. (She does. The screen fades to black and the broadcast ends.)


Re: LUDI NOVI ROMANI MMDCCLXXIV - VIRTUAL CHARIOT RACE, First Semifinal

Cn. Cornelius Lentulus
 

Lentulus P. Annaeo aedili optimo s. p. d.

Heck, I lost first place, P. Placide, aedilis optime, does that mean I am not in the final? Thank you for the lovely virtual show, and good luck to my friend tr. pl. Sex. Lucilius Tutor, vir censorius.

Io Concordia, Io Ludi Novi Romani, vivant aediles Placidus et Paterculus!

CN. LENT. Q. PONT.





Il venerdì 12 marzo 2021, 03:08:54 CET, P. Annaeus Constantinus Placidus, aedilis curulis <ugo.coppola1970@...> ha scritto:


Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus omnibus in Foro s.p.d.

You are about to read my account of the First Semifinal of the Virtual Chariot Race for the LUDI NOVI ROMANI 2774 a.U.c. The narrative is, as usual for me, very long and very detailed, with lots of characters and lots of events; it is mostly comedic in tone, but it also includes serious passages. Most importantly, in this narrative I am costantly mixing ancient and modern. So you have a Chariot Race happening exactly as the Chariot Races used to happen in Ancient Rome's golden years, but you've also got television, cameras, smartphones etc. etc. This is because the temporal setting of the story is TODAY rather than Roman Republican times, and the spatial setting of the story is not Rome, but the fictional city of Nova Roma, which is an idealized, stylized representation of what Ancient Rome would be, were it alive and thriving today. The narrative is written in the guise of a script for a fictional television broadcast.

You are all invited to read and enjoy this narrative, always keeping in mind that nothing at all of this is intended to represent or emulate reality. It's fiction. :-)

Optime valete omnes,
P. Annæus Constantinus Placidus
Ædilis Curuls Novæ Romæ

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The broadcast opens on a blurred image, on a light blue background, of a one-handed electronic clock in white script. The one hand counts down from ten to zero. On minus five seconds, a female voice is faintly heard in the background:
…and we’re on in five, four, three, two… “one” is not heard. The screen goes black and immediately lights up again into the full sunlight of a glorious early afternoon in Nova Roma. It is Ludi time. Strains of the usual heroic theme for horns, which is the signature tune of all Ludi events, are heard, while an aerial camera makes a full pan around the Circus Maximus. It is an extremely unusual and, at the same time, startling view, as the bleachers in the Circus are completely devoid of an audience. Ten camera operators, behind high-tech HDTV cameras, are plainly visible, in their short black workmen’s tunics, instead of being hidden in the crowd as usual. Puffs of green, red and blue coloured smoke emerge every now and then from various points on the bleachers – these are all rigged and artificial, as there is no one lighting up any smoke generators. The only people who seem to be quite ready to enjoy the show about to start are four prætextati people sitting in the front row on the left side of the Circus. An elderly but very dignified woman is among them. About one minute into the pan, a superimposed title appears in red-golden Roman epigraphic script: LVDI NOVI ROMANI | VIRTVAL CHARIOT RACE | FIRST SEMIFINAL | Directed for TV by C. TVLLIA CELERIS.

Immediately after the pan finishes, the shot changes to the inside of the TV broadcast center, on top of the Circus. The camera is behind the crew. Director Tullia Celeris is sitting in the center, her back to the camera. Next to her, on both sides, male and female TV operators are sitting and looking at monitors. They are all very young, and all of them wear white, shell-shaped civilian face masks. Suddenly the entrance door is heard opening and closing with a loud slam. Placidus enters from rear left. He wears completely anti-historical clothes, consisting in his full Italian firefighter operational uniform: a heavy black fireproof jacket with reflective yellow/silver stripes on his wrists and along the front of the jacket, fireproof trousers with yellow stripes, heavy military-like black amphibian boots on his feet, long fireproof gloves on his hands featuring two reflective stripes and the National Firefighters Corps’ flames-and-axes logo, and a red protective helmet on his head, which features a dark-golden visor and the same flame logo as a 3D relief item on his forehead. His face is not seen, hidden behind the mirrored visor. He has come in straight from active firefighting duty. He steps heavily with his boots on the marble floor. Tullia hears him and turns. At the same time, the entire crew also spins on their respective chairs… the boys are happy and give big thumbs up to Placidus, the girls scream out excitedly and survey Placidus’s uniform from head to toe – their eyes are a mix of dreamy admiration and love toward what they regard as a real-life, uniformed superhero.

tullia (to Placidus, very happy). PLACIDE!! (Pause.) You’re finally here! (Grabbing her hips with both hands, ironically and with a hint of sarcasm.) Been putting out fires all around Nova Roma again, haven’t you?

placidus (lifting his visor, slightly tired). Well, yes, Tullia, I have – quite literally, as you can see. (He giggles.) No, sorry, I really did. I’ve just finished my shift. Am I late?

tullia (giggling as well). Placide, did you bother to take a look outside? There’s nobody out there. (She smiles.) So there’s no point in having a parade. There’s no point in you or anybody else doing, say, a welcoming lap around the racetrack. There’s no point in having the racers come out and set up on the starting line. There’s no point in absolutely anything of this. So, indeed, there is no point in coming early or late.

placidus (relieved, exhaling heavily). Pheeew! (He unties his helmet and removes it.) Do you mean I actually have time to get rid of all this stuff and change into more fitting clothing?!

tullia. Yes, of course you do – your prætexta and your calcei are there in the back… you certainly don’t want to greet your TV audience in THOSE boots, do you? (She laughs. Placidus does as well.) Go change yourself, great fireman. I’ll just do another pan – I have plenty of time to fill, here. (She smiles. Pause. The shot changes again into the one on the Circus. The camera stops on the electronic billboard, where a computer animation of the racetrack, with racing chariots, is seen. After less than two minutes of this, the camera moves to the concrete stairway next to the broadcast center. Placidus comes rapidly down on it – now dressed, in a perfectly historical way, in his full toga prætexta. He carries a wireless mic in his right hand. Very much at ease in his toga, he descends the steps quickly, accompanied by the signature tune, and comes into the center of the racetrack, opposite the magistrates, where he stops. Suddenly, huge, pre-recorded applause and cheering is heard. Placidus makes a faint smile, slightly embarassed, faces the camera and starts talking into his mic.)

placidus (very formally). Ladies and gentlemen, domini dominæque, iuvenes, pueri puellæque… in one word, everybody in front of your TV screens… welcome here to the First Semifinal of the Virtual Chariot Race for the Ludi Novi Romani 2021! (Loud applause – this time clearly perceivable as fake, as it rapidly fades in and out with no definite start and no definite stop.) This is Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus and I’m talking to you LIVE from the Circus Maximus in Nova Roma. (Pause. The applause does not stop – it fades back in and back out.) Excuse me for a moment, folks. I have to say a word to my great director Tullia up there in the broadcast center. (He pushes his earphone in his right ear.) Tullia? [tullia. Yes, Ædilis? Placidus giggles.] I can’t understand what’s up with you every single time. I was Placidus to you not later than six minutes ago, and now I’m Ædilis? Did I graduate to anything in this extremely brief lapse of time? (He giggles again.)

tullia (from earphone). Six minutes ago you were here, Ædilis. It was the intro. Now you’re on the racetrack. It’s official. Simply by virtue of you being on the racetrack, you’re not just Placidus any longer. You’re Nova Roma’s beloved Ædilis Curulis.

placidus. Oh. Okay, then. (Pause.) Regardless of what or who I am, Tullia, what’s all of this fake applause thing? Excuse my language, but to me it’s just crap. (Pause.) You have amply made your point, with your opening pan, and also earlier, when I was up there with you, that there’s no audience. Everybody knows why there’s no audience, it’s not worth repeating. Still, I’m hearing applause and cheering as if this whole 10000-seater arena was filled to its utmost capacity. Again, forgive me, but this is plain silly.

tullia. (calmly and gently) My dear Ædilis, maybe you still don’t have a clear vision of what you’re hosting. (Shot on her.) This is not real. This is a show. Covid-19 is real. People dying everyday around the world are real. Intensive care wards in hospitals everywhere on the brink of collapsing are real. Even us behind the scenes, being forced to wear these stupid muzzles on our faces, while you’re privileged enough not to… (Pause. Slight giggle from Placidus)… we’re real. I’m real. You’re real. The people sitting opposite you are real. The chariot owners, their racers, are real. But everything else is not real. It’s entertainment. It’s a show – we’re putting on a show. We have to make people watching this on TV feel like they’re watching a show. After all, Ædilis, who do you think we’re running this race for? For a live audience? (Pause. She shakes her head.) Not really. Sure, if a live audience was there, they would enjoy the show. But they would get nothing else from it. The racers do get something, because there’s the Nova Roma Virtual Chariot Racing championship always going on. We’re not running our races for a live audience. If anybody, we’re running the races for the people who actually take their time to set up their chariots and bring them here. It’s them, the people who actually run, the ones we’re setting up this show for. Fake applause is part of the show. So you do your job down there and I do mine up here. Part of my job is putting applause and shouting where applause and shouting are supposed to be, even if there’s nobody applauding and shouting. (She smiles. The shot goes back to Placidus, who has suddenly become serious and ready to do his job.)

placidus. I agree with everything you say, amica mea. And I accept everything that you do up there. [tullia (from earphone). Thanks, Ædilis. Now you may start. Pause. Placidus looks into the camera.] Okay, folks out there in TV-land, sorry for this short and unforeseen diversion. I am really ready now. First of all I would like to say hello and welcome to our most honourable magistrates sitting in front of me… (Pause. The shot changes to the magistrates.) From left to right, my Plebeian colleague Marcus Aurelius Cotta Iovis, my mate in the Curule Ædilitas Aulus Iulius Paterculus… (Pause. As Placidus calls the magistrates, they get up one by one, accompanied by faint pre- recorded applause in the background. Paterculus holds a red nappa in his right hand and a blue surgical mask is hanging from his neck, but he is not wearing it. Placidus resumes.)… and our esteemed Consuls, Quintus Arrius Nauta and Domina Aula Tullia Scholastica. (Pause. To Scholastica) Domina Scholastica, thanks very much for taking some of your precious time to come here. That’s very kind of you. (Pause. The shot moves to her. scholastica. Thank you, dear Ædilis, for taking some of your own time off your precious macronational work to set up and organize all of this. You have such a wonderful dedication to everything you do. Pause. The shot goes back to Placidus, who is slightly blushing.)

placidus (smiling). Thanks, domina. I really don’t deserve any of this. I’m just a very humble firefighter who just happens to wear a toga prætexta every now and then. (Short pause. Tullia is heard giggling from the earphone.) Anyway, I think it’s time to meet the racers now… (Pause. He looks up to the broadcasting center and sees that Tullia is looking behind her. He pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, what’s up?

tullia (initially from the earphone, then the shot moves to her). Sorry, Placide, I heard the door opening and closing. You know all too well that nobody’s supposed to enter here while a broadcast is in progress. Unless you’re expecting somebody.

placidus (suddenly remembering). Oh! Yes, I am. Please let him in. (Pause. A man, younger, shorter and plumper than Placidus, appears in one of the windows of the broadcast center. He has a beard and a very sunny, happy face. He is dressed with a very elegant, and very historically correct, toga angusticlavia, and he appears to wear nothing underneath it. He gives a broad smile. and makes wild waving gestures with his right hand, held up high, to salute Placidus. The shot moves behind him and Tullia.)

tullia. Who is this, Ædilis? I suppose he’s a friend of yours, otherwise he wouldn’t be here at all. (Pause. The man smiles to her, another very broad, sunny smile.)

placidus. Of course he’s a friend. Indeed, I’ll tell you more. He may be the only real friend I currently have outside of my colleagues. (Pause. More formal) Tullia, please meet my current and wonderful scuba diving instructor, Manius Flavius Salvus. You can safely shake his hand, he’s just been test-swabbed and came out negative. (Pause. Tullia and Salvus shake hands.) Tullia, I love that man. He and his team brought me very safely down to more than 108 feet in Sicily last summer. [tullia (from Placidus’s earphone). Wooooooowww! That’s something! Pause. Back to Placidus.] Yes, wow indeed. He actually did. (Pause. In a darker tone) Then something happened I don’t want to talk about, and I couldn’t get a certification with him. (Pause. More neutral) But still I love him dearly, and I’m going back to Sicily with him next summer to get that card again. Please give him a mic and put him on the PA, I want to talk with him. (Pause. Tullia gives Salvus a hand-held mic and pushes a button on her console. Back to Placidus.) Salve, can you hear me? At last I can see you face-to-face instead of only through a computer screen.

salvus (smiling broadly, as above, and with a Sicilian accent, his voice booming through the PA and echoing in the empty Circus). Hello, Ugo! (Pause.) No, wait, what’s your name here? It’s not even Cosworth… (Pause. Placidus laughs.) Oh, right. (He remembers.) Salve, Ædilis Placide. Is that right, isn’t it? You’re a high ranking person in here, and congrats for that.

placidus. Oh no, amice. I’m wearing different clothes from the wetsuit I had when you taught me, but I’m the same person you taught to. Nothing’s changed. (Pause.) Anway, let’s not lose any more time with greetings. Come down here, we’ve got a race to chronicle! (He giggles. The shot moves again to the outside of the broadcast center. Salvus is seen pulling out a white surgical mask and wearing it, then he comes rapidly down the stairs and joins Placidus in the middle of the racetrack. Fake applause in the background. Placidus introduces him formally.) Ladies and gentlemen in front of your TV screen, my assistant chronicler for this wonderful Virtual Chariot Race… from Panormus, Sicily, dominus Manius Flavius Salvus! (Pause. He raises Salvus’s left arm. Huge, roaring pre-recorded applause. Salvus is slightly embarassed. He talks to Placidus in a low voice.)

salvus (slightly muffled through his mask). Placide, apart that I don’t deserve any of this… [placidus (overlapping and smiling) You do, amice. You amply do.]… I’m a soldier. I know nothing at all about chariot racing. How am I supposed to chronicle if I don’t know what I’m watching?

placidus. Don’t worry, buddy. (Pause.) First of all, remove that silly thing off your mouth. You’re my guest here and I allow you to. I’m in command. (He lets out a slight laugh while thinking of his actual ‘in-command’ role in his real-life job. Salvus laughs as well and removes his mask.) As I was saying, buddy… (Pause. Salvus is very happy about Placidus calling him ‘buddy’, as he did during their scuba training.)…while I introduce the racers, you go sit there next to my colleague Paterculus. (Pause. Placidus points to Paterculus opposite him.) Patercule, please, you and Cotta Iovis move one seat to the right so that my friend can sit next to you. (Pause. Paterculus and Cotta do.) He will explain you everything.

salvus. Thank you, Placide. (He goes to sit next to Paterculus.)

placidus. You’re welcome, buddy. (Pause. Placidus pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, please, give me the starting grid for this First Semifinal. The three in the first batch. (Pause. Shot on the electronic billboard on top of the Circus. Three lines come out of it, each one pulled by an animated silhouette of a racing chariot, respectively in bright green, bright red and bright blue.)

LANE     CHARIOT            OWNER                        DRIVER      TEAM

I               Phoenix Furiens     M. Hortensia Maior        Hyppolita       PRÆSINA

II              Nova Roma            Cn. Cornelius Lentulus  Dorothea        RUSSATA

III            Titans’ Disaster      Sex. Lucilius Tutor         Stoicus           VENETA

After all the lines have disappeared from the screen, the shot goes back to Placidus, who is chatting with Salvus, sitting in the front row.

placidus. OK, bro… (Salvus smiles, hearing Placidus call him with another nickname from their training period.) I hope you have a little bit more understanding on what you’re about to witness.

salvus. Yes, Placide, I think I got a clear picture of it all, your friend Paterculus is good. (Pause. He smiles to Paterculus, who smiles back and gives Salvus a thumb-up.) Not a detailed picture, mind you. A very broad one. (He giggles.) The only thing I’m a bit doubtful about is racing tactics. Your friend listed them, but I don’t quite know what he meant…

placidus (patting Salvus on the shoulder). My friend, never mind the tactics. You shall understand them when you see them in action here on the racetrack, and I guarantee you that (giggling) sparks will fly. Quite literally.

salvus. We shall see to that, Placide. We’ll see.

placidus. Sure, buddy. (Pause.) Before we start, I have just another little thing to do, which is introducing the racers. I see some familiar faces in here, I’ve got a feeling that this is going to be quick. (Pause. He approaches Hortensia on Lane I.) Domina Hortensia Maior Fabiana Faustina, welcome back to the racetrack, with a new chariot and… (he looks up) a new charioteer… a young, strong, and pretty girl! (Pause. Shot on Hippolyta, on the chariot. Her face is beautiful, like a modern fashion model, but she also has sharp, sculpted features – typical of a strong, rough woman. She has very long blond hair, wavy but unkempt as well. She holds her Amazon helmet under her right arm. She smiles at Placidus and gives him a thumb-up. Placidus resumes talking to Hortensia. She is wearing a face mask made out of fine white silk.) Sorry again, domina, if we couldn’t get your full Roman name on the billboard, but you see, that’s all the space we have.     

hortensia (very gently). My dear Ædilis Placide, you know very well that you’re way too kind to apologize to me for anything. And, like domina Scholastica said a few minutes ago, your kindness also shows in the fact that, in spite of everything you have to go through in your life outside of here, you did manage to organize this wonderful race. (Pause. Placidus blushes slightly.) Of course I couldn’t miss it, could I? (Pause.) As for my new charioteer… well, I’ve traveled quite a bit before the damned pandemic hit the entire known world, and on a trip to Scythia last November I happened to watch this fantastic Amazon girl rider having her way with a pure-breed horse like a man… or, I may say, better than a man. She’s extremely fierce, she’s strong-willed and strong-armed, and, as I hope you’ve been able to see, she’s got her looks, which is a plus.

placidus (embarassed). Er… yes, I’m quite aware of her… er… good looks. (He giggles.) Sorry, domina, I’m a man. I can’t help that.

hortensia. Never mind, Ædilis. Please go on.

placidus (still a bit embarassed). Okay, er… (Pause.) All best of luck for this race to you and your new pilot. [hortensia (overlapping). Thanks again, Ædilis. Pause. Placidus moves to Lane II, where Lentulus is standing next to his old-but-refurbished racing chariot, Nova Roma. Placidus is enthusiastic at seeing his long-time assistant and friend. He is wearing a white surgical mask.] LENTULE!! What a pleasure! You’ve managed to enter your chariot once again! [He moves to hug him, but Lentulus stops him with a gesture of his right hand.]

lentulus. Stop right there, Placide amice. (Pause.) I know you love me dearly as a friend, but you’re also our Ædilis Curulis, so behave as such. Be dignified. (Pause. Placidus smiles and distances himself.) Not to mention your wonderful uniform and your position in real life… you’re in the Law Enforcement business, and that gives you both the right to exercise your power, and the duty to be dignified and correct – even with close friends. (Pause. Placidus smiles again and makes a small bow, then resumes talking.)

placidus. Yes, my friend, you’re right as usual. (Pause.) It’s just that I still have to get used to my position – both here and outside of here. Most probably I never will. (Pause. He looks up to Dorothea on the chariot.) But apart from this, please allow me to repeat that it’s indeed a great pleasure to see both of you once again you and your great lioness up there, helming your chariot… or is she a panther? (Pause. Dorothea lifts her head up high, with pride, and lets out a long laugh. Long, wild brown hair, a body armour, but no helmet and no face mask.)

dorothea (sarcastically, to Placidus). You can call me whatever animal you want, Ædilis, but the point is that I am an animal. And I’m going to show that first of all to that made-up chick here next to me in Lane I. (She laughs again. Hippolyta, in Lane I, looks at her with a snobbish attitude. While Placidus has just realized that this is going to be his first-ever race featuring two woman racers, and an amazed sparks-are-indeed-going-to-fly look quickly passes on his face, Lentulus tries to shush up his charioteer.)

lentulus. Dorothea, please behave. You’re talking to a magistrate.

dorothea (still a bit sarcastic). Yeah, I know. (Pause. To Lentule). Master Lentule, you freed me a long time ago, and I thank you for that. Now I’m yours, but you know you can’t change the way I am. (Proudly) Nobody can.

lentulus (humbly, to Placidus). Sorry about her, Placide. As you say in Italy, I wanted my bicycle, now I’ve got to pedal. (He giggles.)

placidus (giggling as well). Yes, my friend, I get that. (Pause.) Well, I wish you good luck to you and your… er, animal up there. (Pause. Lentulus gives Placidus a thumb-up while Dorothea laughs again. Placidus moves to Lane III.) Hey, another familiar face here too… (He moves to Lucilius. He also wears a white respirator mask like the TV crew members. He is unconfortable with it.) Lucili, as a former Ædilician colleague of yours, I must say I’m pleased to find you here on the racetrack as well. And I’m also pleased to see your great Stoicus at the helm once again.

lucilius (adjusting his mask, which is slipping down his nose) Yes, Ædilis, it’s been quite a while since I left my footprints… (Pause. He looks down and sees he is, ironically, not leaving any footprints at all…)… er, since I last stepped with my calcei here on the sand in the racetrack. As for Stoicus, well, he too was looking forward to coming back here controlling the reins of two mighty horses… (Pause. He adjusts his mask again.) Oh, to hell with this stupid thing. I wish all this dreaded disease would just fly away and disappear. Don’t you, Ædilis? [placidus (slightly overlapping) Yes, Lucili amice, I do too. Pause. Lucilius resumes.]  Anyway, as you can see, Stoicus is fully primed and ready to race. (Pause. Placidus looks up at Stoicus on the chariot. He is indeed ready – his brand new body armor is already correctly tied, and he has already worn his protective helmet. The look on his face is extremely dignified and serious and, faithfully to his name, he shows no sign of emotion at all.)

placidus. Well, Lucili, I can see that he’s amply ready to race. (Pause.) Primed… er… (he chuckles slightly)… I’m afraid I can’t say that for sure, just looking at him.

lucilius (giving Placidus a thumb-up). Yes, that’s precisely his attitude: keeping it all inside of himself. I like him a lot just because of that.

placidus (sort-of thinking aloud) Well, Lucili, keeping everything inside of oneself is perfect in this frenetic world’s everyday life, but I wonder how much he’s going to hold that up during a wild chariot race. (Pause.) Anyway, right now, as with the others, I can only wish good luck to you and him for this great race. (Pause. Lucilius bows and Placidus goes back to his monitor next to the front row bleachers, where Salvus is sitting at ease, but the seat to his right is empty: Paterculus is not there. Placidus is puzzled and thinks aloud again… Where’s he gone?? Then he remembers having seen him with the red nappa in his hand: he is going to start the race. Indeed, he looks behind him and sees Paterculus, behind the starting line, approaching the official starter’s podium next to the spina wall. Placidus looks relieved.)

salvus. What’s up, Ugo… er, Placide? Were you looking for your friend? He’s right there (pointing to Paterculus), just about to climb on that small red pulpit.

placidus (giggling at Salvus’s definition). Pulpit… erm, buddy, to us that’s a podium. The starter’s podium. Now my colleague is going to officially set them all off.

salvus. Yes, I know. (Pause.) I’ve seen something similar on TV in other… er, other contexts than this.

placidus. Good for you, buddy. Just one more thing before we start. When I say ‘over to you’ or something similar or anyway I invite you to talk, just pick up where I left off and continue. OK? (He makes a diver’s A-OK sign with three fingers. Salvus replies with the same sign. Placidus turns to Paterculus.) All right, Patercule collega. You may go. (Pause. Shot on Paterculus. He has worn a white respirator too, by now. He looks at Placidus, who gives him a thumb-up.) Amice, you know what to do just right after you start, don’t you?

paterculus. Sure, collega. (Pause.) You taught me. Indeed, you taught us all.

placidus. Well, not that I’m aware of, but go ahead. (Pause. Paterculus lifts his nappa up high.)

paterculus. Attention, pilots! (Pause.) Three… two… one… (He drops the nappa.) GO!!! (The horses run away furiously. Immediately, Paterculus jumps up the spina wall and stands there, proudly erect and motionless, a true Roman Ædilis. Then he shakes off just a little bit of dust from his toga, which is still immaculate, and he walks across the racetrack to his seat, accompanied by pre-recorded applause. He goes to sit next to Salvus, who is amazed.)

salvus. Wow, Placide! (Pause.) Were you actually the first to do that stunt? That’s wonderful!

placidus. Yes, and there’s really nothing ‘wow’ about it. Once I was the starter, and I didn’t want to get my toga dirty, so I improvised. (Pause.) Glad to know somebody’s learned from me. Anyway, there’s no more time to talk, as we’re into…

LAP I

(Shot on the racetrack, Placidus starts his chronicle.) All the chariots are definitely up to a very good start, I see. Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster, in Lane III, advances slightly more than Dorothea on Nova Roma in Lane III. Hippolyta on Phoenix is momentarily left behind… apparently the lone boy on track is way more determined than the two girls, isn’t he, buddy?

salvus. Well, yes, Placide. What did you say he was in everyday life? A philosopher? A thinker?  He doesn’t look like that to me – he looks way more like a soldier. One of my kind. (He smiles)

placidus. Maybe it’s his Stoicism indeed – his way to keep an inner calm among all possible turmoil – which makes him as strong as a valiant soldier in battle, and maybe even more. I guess we should ask him, but I doubt he’ll answer. (Pause. Shot on the racetrack.) Now look at that, buddy. (While Stoicus and Hippolyta slow down to turn around the bend in the safest and most possibly correct way, Dorothea passes it extremely close to the tip of the wall. She almost risks scraping her left wheel against the wall. Once again Salvus is amazed. Placidus looks at him.)

salvus. Placide, have you seen what she’s done?? But is she actually… crazy? She nearly broke her wheel!

placidus. Buddy, what was I telling you earlier, about seeing tactics in action rather than explaining them? That’s one. (He smiles.) I’ve seen her doing that way too many times to know that she’s not crazy at all. That’s her tactic. While the others slow down in order to take the bend without any harm, she doesn’t change her pace and gets near the wall. Sure, that’s a big risk of actually hitting it. But, as you see, she’s now leading, so it was worth the risk. Would you please continue up to the second straight line and second curve, then I pick it up again for the end of the first lap? (Pause. Salvus, still a bit shaken, is perplexed. Placidus utters the code-words.) Over to you, buddy.

salvus. Oh, OK. (getting back into it) Let’s see now. Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster, which up to the first bend was solidly in the lead, is now paired with Dorothea on Nova Roma, but Hippolyta on Phoenix Furiens is quickly catching up with her. (Pause and shot on the racetrack. Hippolyta bends over to the right, she grabs some sand off the racetrack and, getting momentarily nearer to Dorothea, throws the dust right in her face. Dorothea is blinded for a second, she lets go of her reins, slows down and Hippolyta overtakes her. Immediately she starts shouting. The absence of the audience makes it possible for the cameras on the bleachers to pick up her shouting, which is unusually clearly heard.)

dorothea (shouting). You bastard! You cheater! You rabid bitch!! If I catch you I’ll rip your head off your neck and then I’ll pee into your oh-so-nice silver helmet!! (Pause. Shot back to Salvus, whose mouth has gaped. He opens and closes it twice without saying a word, like a goldfish. Placidus is amused. Then Salvus finally manages to speak. He stutters.)

salvus. Pla-Placide! (Pause.) Now you don— you don’t tell me that all of this I’ve just seen – and heard! – is actually allowed in here. OK, I’ve seen and heard worse in my battlefield days on active duty, but I frankly didn’t expect to witness that sort of thing also in here.

placidus. My dear friend, not only it’s allowed… (chuckling) It’s normal. It’s routine. It’s tactics. It happens at almost every single race. (Pause. Salvus is relieved and a wide smile appears on his face.) Also, about the language, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what normally happens in here. Which reminds me of one thing… would you excuse me for just a minute, buddy? [salvus. Of course. Placidus pushes on his earphone.] Tullia? [tullia (from earphone). Tell me, Ædilis.] Tullia, please, really you can’t call me just Placidus? [tullia (partly apologizing). Not while you’re on the racetrack, Ædilis Placide. Now tell me.] OK, let’s see how far can we take this game. (Pause. Tullia laughs from the earphone.) Tullia, you’ve always got a one-second delay in the audio up there. If you hear anything worse than that, be ready with your hand on that big censoring red button up there. (Pause.) In the past, of course, I did that on purpose. But now I really wasn’t expecting to hear all of that so loud and clear. I forgot that there’s no audience. (He giggles.) Anyway, back to the race. This little amount of trouble to Dorothea has made her slip back in third place. Hippolyta is a very close second to Stoicus, who took advantage of the distractions behind him to regain a bit of his lost lead. (Shot on the racetrack.) Now the chariots are doing the second bend, and while Stoicus and Hippolyta can take their time to actually do it with care, so to speak, Dorothea speeds up, passes it nearer to the wall and pairs up with Hippolyta, or very nearly so. (Pause.) So, on the finish line, Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster crosses first, followed by Hippolyta on Phoenix Furiens and, very very very close, Dorothea on Nova Roma. (Pause. Shot on the dolphins pole above the Circus. The second dolphin bows down.) I’ve just seen that one more dolphin above there isn’t straight any longer, which can mean only one thing: we’ve just started…

LAP II

salvus (looking at the dolphins pole in his monitor). Hey, Placide. The dolphins. Nice touch. Just like in the old times.

placidus. Well, buddy, we’re all about reconstructionism here. If we can do anything in a properly historical way, we just do it. (Pause.) Would you care to start this lap?

salvus. Of course. I’m honored. (Pause.) Phoenix Furiens and Nova Roma have restarted their powerful attack on Titans’ Disaster, which is now slightly leading again. Now Stoicus is slightly accelerating… is that a tactic, Placide amice?

placidus. Let me see. (He pulls his smartphone out of a fold in his toga, he turns it on, he slides a finger over the display and reads: “Hurry in the straight lines”.) Yes, buddy, that’s it. (He shows the smartphone to Salvus long enough for him to read the line about Stoicus, but not long enough for him to read the other lines. In spite of this, Salvus smiles and resumes narrating.)  

salvus. OK, folks at home, as you have just heard from my mate Placidus here next to me… (Pause. Placidus smiles)… Stoicus’s chosen tactic has allowed him to set himself in first position once again. But here comes the first bend, so let’s see how it goes. (Shot on the racetrack. Salvus is heard off-screen.) Stoicus speeds up just a little bit more, then he slows down exactly at the most critical point of the whole bend – the tip of the spina wall – so he manages to go around it very easily, very correctly, and also without deviating from his proper path. Hippolyta follows, almost exactly like her opponent has done, and a bit later here comes Dorothea at full speed and passing very near the spina, as previously. Placide, if you forgive me the cheap joke, these people are so good at going around those bends, that they’re not afraid at all of getting the bends!! (He laughs. Placidus laughs too.)

placidus. That joke isn’t cheap at all, buddy. Instead it’s very good. Only, I would kindly ask you not to do it again, because it reminds me too much of a person who I used to do that joke with, and who I thought was very similar to you, but he later turned out to be completely different.

salvus. Oh, I do have an idea about who that may be. Isn’t his name somewhere along the lines of Marcus Petronius Ior—

placidus (interrupting him just in time). Yes. That’s him. (Darkly) I don’t want to talk about him, because something related to you happened last year between me and him. Something I didn’t like, and I don’t want to talk about that either. (More neutral) Let’s talk about something else.

salvus. Yes, Placide, I understand. Let’s talk about the race. (Pause.) Up to now in this lap there have been no dirty tricks, and I really hope that there aren’t going to be any more of them…

placidus. I hope too, buddy, but if I were you I honestly wouldn’t hold my breath.

salvus. Of course I’m not, Placide. I’m a scuba instructor. I’m not a freediver. (He laughs again. His laughter is contagious.)

placidus (laughing) Ha-ha-ha-ha… Bro, you have such a wonderful way of making everything I say so much lighter than it actually is. I love you dearly, brother. (Pause. Salvus is moved by Placidus actually using the full word rather than as a nickname, and quietly whispers: Thank you, brother.) Now can I please do the rest of the lap?

salvus. Suit yourself, Placide.

placidus. Thanks, buddy. (Pause.) So, while everything went well for all three racers in the first bend, the race is again developing on the second straight line. Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster keeps leading, very slightly ahead of Nova Roma’s Dorothea, while, also very close to her, Hippolyta is insulting her in what sounds to my ears like ancient Afghan… but I don’t understand a single word of it. Do you, buddy?

salvus. No, I don’t. And yet I’ve spent quite some time in Afghanistan…

placidus. So we can allow ourselves not to care about that at all and to care just about the race. (He chuckles. Shot on the racetrack.) And what I’m seeing just now is Hippolyta about to pull out another dirty trick on Dorothea. (Pause. Hippolyta is seen unrolling a whip behind the front of her chariot. She snaps it first in the air above her, then on Dorothea, whose body armor covers her breasts, her abdomen and her back, but not her shoulders. Snap! Hippolyta’s whip hits hard on Dorothea’s left shoulder, leaving a faint red mark. She winces, then she does something unclear and unseen to Hippolyta. Nothing happens. Hippolyta then reaches her neck out to Dorothea and she also does something unseen to her. Dorothea puts her arm in front of her eyes, slows down, but this does not allow Hippolyta to overtake her. The positions remain unchanged. Placidus pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, please, give me an instant replay of that from another angle. And zoom on those two, er, maids. (Pause. Salvus is heard laughing loudly next to Placidus.)

salvus. “Maids”… (laughing) You’re quite something, Placide. No wonder the main host of these Virtual Race events is always you. Nobody beats you. (He laughs again. Pause. The shot changes to a slo-mo instant replay of the scene, seen from another camera on the bleachers. Immediately after Hippolyta has hit Dorothea, she spits in Hippolyta’s face. The latter turns sharply, and the spit hits the left side of her helmet. Immediately after that, Hippolyta spits in Dorothea’s face. She wears no helmet, and the target is hit. Dorothea wipes off the spit, but she does not slow down enough for Hippolyta to speed past her. The shot goes back to Placidus. He and Salvus are chuckling together.)

placidus. Seen that, buddy? This has suddenly turned into a spitting match. Not even two cowboys in the Wild West could do any better. That’s why… “maids”.

salvus. Indeed, Placide. You hit the nail right on the head. As always. (Pause. Dorothea is passing right opposite the point where Placidus is broadcastig from. Placidus teases her.)

placidus. Now you see, my dear, what’s the DISadvantage of not wearing a helmet?

dorothea. (shouting wildly, while racing along the straight line) SHUT UP, ÆDILIS!! (Pause. Placidus is struck and he does shut up for a few seconds.)

salvus. Placide amice, I have a feeling that if that girl put her racing horses where her mouth is, she’d be world champion in chariot racing. (He giggles. Placidus looks at him with admiration.)

placidus (jokingly) Congrats, buddy! You’re becoming good at this. So good, in fact, that I allow you the honor to conclude this lap, from the second bend onwards.

salvus. And I very gladly do that, amice. (Pause.) Well, all of the hustle-and-bustle happening now between Dorothea, Hippolyta and, yes, you as well… (Pause. Placidus laughs.)… may have contributed to switching their respective positions along the straight line, but now she’s just done such a masterful turn of the bend… so close, in fact, to the the spina wall that I can almost hear the hubcap of her left wheel scraping the wall… but, luckily for her, she doesn’t. So here’s how they cross the finish line in the second lap: Titans’ Disaster driven by Stoicus leads the race, Nova Roma with Dorothea is back in second place and, extremely close to it, Phoenix Furiens driven by Hippolyta. Now I guess that the third dolphin above there is about to go to sleep… isn’t it, Placide? (Shot of the dolphins pole, where the third dolphin bows down.)

placidus. Exactly, buddy. Just as I said before, you’re becoming much better than me at this. I’ll tell you something… (ironically) YOU host the next race and I rest!

salvus (chuckling). No, Placide. This is not my world. My world is up there in the cold waters in the lakes near Modicia, or in the warmer waters down in Sicily, but always with my trainees. That’s where my world is. This is your world. I ain’t taking your world away from you. Indeed, I advise you to keep a firm grip on it, because you’re the best. (Pause. Placidus smiles a childish smile to Salvus.)

placidus. Thanks, bro, you’re too kind. Everybody has something they’re best at. Yours is teaching how to dive, mine is NOT hosting chariot races, but let’s not go into that any further (chuckling) as we’ve got a magnificent race to finish, as indeed it’s just gone into…

LAP III

salvus. I’ll let your start this, Placide. As I said, this is your terrain.

placidus. Thanks a lot, buddy. (Pause.) Well, now that this exciting race is heading towards its conclusion, I don’t think there’s time for tactics any longer, but in several years of chronicling these races I’ve got so much used to unusual things happening all the time, that I can’t really say anything more… can I, buddy?

salvus (shaking his head and chuckling) No, Placide, you can’t. I’ve been a personal witness of this up to now, I don’t think anything can change in the last lap.

placidus. I don’t think so either, unless Hippolyta employs another of her tricks… or better, Lady Hortensia’s tricks, as she’s the one who chose the tactic. She’s the bad girl in here, much worse than her charioteer. (Pause. While the slightly darker afternoon hour allows for the powerful halogen lights on the four corners of the Circus to light up faintly, Placidus eyes Hortensia sitting alone four rows behind the magistrates, and waves to her. Hortensia responds by barely lifting her hand and wiggling her fingers, as if she knew what Placidus is talking about. Lentulus is also sitting alone, in the row behind Hortensia’s and very distanced from her. The shot goes back to Placidus, who resumes his chronicle.) On the first straight line, Stoicus is still leading, but as Dorothea is lashing her horses like mad and getting closer and closer and closer, he’s starting to feel his lead somehow menaced by Dorothea… in other words, he’s starting to feel Dorothea’s breath on his neck. (Pause. To Salvus) Isn’t this what the professionals say all the time, buddy?

salvus. Yes, exactly, Placide. Where did you learn to talk “sport” like that?

placidus. Here in the Circus, buddy. That’s where. After having hosted these races for more than 10 years. (He laughs. Salvus joins him but they both stop.) Let’s look at the racetrack, bro. What d’you say? (Pause.) Over to you, buddy.

salvus (surprised). Placide! You can’t throw the ball at me like tha— [He is stopped by Placidus whispering in his hear: Buddy, the race!] Oh, OK. (Pause. Shot on the racetrack.) Hippolyta is wielding her whip again! Just as her and Dorothea are entering the first bend – the great Stoicus has already passed it perfectly – she lashes at Dorothea. The latter shifts her body to the right and Hippolyta misses! (Pause) Here she goes again… snap! But Dorothea ducks and she misses again! And in the meantime they’re into the bend… Dorothea is millimetrically right in NOT hitting the spina wall… but Hippolyta, who’s apparently busier in trying to hit Dorothea than in driving her chariot, miscalculates the speed and she DOES very nearly hit the wall… she scrapes it with the left side of her chariot! (Pause. Scraping noise, not too loud. The hubcap on Phoenix Furiens’s left wheel slowly starts to come loose.) Phew! What an excitement, folks! Too much excitement for me… I’m very much used to the extreme calm of deep waters, and this madman at my side… (Placidus laughs) is mercilessly putting me through all this, so at this point I’ll very gladly let him go on.

placidus (still partly laughing). Okay, buddy, I do understand. (Remembering from earlier) Your world, my world. I do see. So, where are we at? (Pause. Shot on the racetrack.) The three chariots are racing very near to each other. Competing. Clearly Dorothea must’ve realized that her chances to win, and thus to move to the Final, are very close to non-existent, but also second place means something – for the overall score in the Championship. So she’s trying to do whatever she can to keep herself there in the second spot, while at the same time trying to avoid all direct attacks on her from her direct opponent – that is, of course, Hippolyta, who obviously longs for the second place herself. (Pause.) Now he’s extending her whip again… high up in the air… she lunges at Dorothea’s right shoulder, but she suddenly swerves to the right and Hippolyta misses again. (Pause. Excited, rhytmical breathing from Salvus.) Buddy, you seem to be actually enjoying this!

salvus. Well, yes, Placide. Actually I am. (Pause. Very quick breathing, almost like a dog.) Please don’t stop.

placidus. I won’t stop only if you calm down, my friend. After everything you’ve done for me, I certainly won’t be the one who’s responsible for giving you a heart attack or something. (Pause. Salvus does calm down.) That’s better, buddy. (He pats Salvus on his right shoulder.) Let’s see how all of this ends up. I’d like you to do it, bro.

salvus (still excited but much calmer) Okay, Placide. Here goes Hippolyta with her whip again… arm in the air… she extends it… but while she’s aiming to the point of Dorothea’s back where she may hurt her the most, she commits the most fatal mistake in chariot racing, which is… (Pause. He points to Placidus.)

placidus. Always look in front of you?

salvus. Exactly, buddy. (Pause. Placidus smiles at being called ‘buddy’ himself.) She gets closer to the spina wall in the middle of the racetrack… and closer… and closer… oh no, I don’t want to watch this! (He mockingly covers his eyes with one hand. CRASH! The left wheel on Phoenix Furiens suddenly hits the spina wall. The small metal hubcap at its center comes completely off and it is shown rolling across the sand. Salvus resumes.) What a hit, folks. Literally. (He giggles.) The left wheel on Hippolyta’s chariot wobbles just as she’s coming out of the second bend… Dorothea having made it perfectly, of course… and while Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster crosses the finish line first and lifts both his arms in the air, triumphantly, but with just a shadow of a smile going across his impassible face… (Pause.)… you conclude this, Placide.

placidus. Very gladly so, buddy. As my great mate Salvus has just said, while Stoicus enjoys his well-deserved victory, which brings him straight into the final, Dorothea manages to get her equally deserved Championship points by coming in second, and Phoenix Furiens, having completely lost its left wheel, crumbles miserably down on the ground at just a few meters from the finish line. A disgruntled and disappointed, but… (dreamily) oh-so-beautiful helmeted Amazon by the name of Hippolyta… (Pause. Salvus giggles at Placidus.) climbs off Phoenix Furiens and gives a mighty kick to her evidently weak chariot, making it tumble upside-down on the ground and effectively sealing its fate. (Pause. He looks at Salvus.) So Stoicus is the winner, animalish Dorothea gets her points, Hippolita gets nothing and… do you think there’s anything more to say for this great First Semifinal, buddy?

salvus (smiling to Placidus, another of his wide, sunny smiles) No, Placide. I’m most definitely not inclned to think so. I think we may say goodbye now.

placidus. Yes, we certainly may. (Pause. Very formal) Ladies and gentlemen, you have just witnessed the First Semifinal of the Virtual Chariot Race for the Ludi Novi Romani 2774 a.U.c. This is Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus…

salvus. …and this is his best buddy, Manius Flavius Salvus…

placidus. …and we’re signing off for today. See you all soon here, same place, same channel, for the Second Semifinal. (Pause. He pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, you may fade us out now. (She does. The screen fades to black and the broadcast ends.)


LUDI NOVI ROMANI MMDCCLXXIV - VIRTUAL CHARIOT RACE, Second Semifinal

P. Annaeus Constantinus Placidus, aedilis curulis
 

Ædilis Curuls Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus omnibus in foro S.P.D.

You are about to read my narrative for the Second Semifinal of the Virtual Chariot Race in the LUDI NOVI ROMANI 2774 a.U.c.. The same ancient/modern caveat I posted for my previous narrative also applies to this. So there are chariots and there is TV, there are charioteers and there are smartphones, etc. etc.

You are all invited to read and enjoy this account, always keeping in mind a simple truth: this is not fact. This is not history. It is fiction. :-)

Optime valete omnes,
P. Annæus Constantinus Placidus
Ædilis Curulis Novæ Romæ
__________________________________________

The broadcast opens, similiarly to the one for the First Semifinal, with a circling aerial pan shot over the Circus Maximum in Nova Roma. As for the previous event, there is no audience at all in the Circus except for the four magistrates in the front row, on the left side. Artificial puffs of blue and red smoke, all mechanically rigged and with a slight prevalence of the latter, come up from various points of the Circus. It is an early Saturday afternoon. The heroic signature theme for brass (an orchestral variation on “Chariots” by Mike Oldfield) is heard under the opening credits, appearing on screen in red-golden Roman epigraphic script: LVDI NOVI ROMANI | VIRTVAL CHARIOT RACE | SECOND SEMIFINAL | Directed for TV by GAIA TVLLIA CELERIS. The pan concludes on the TV broadcast center on top of the Circus and on the lonely figure of a firefighter standing next to it, at the top of the concrete staircase leading to it. He wears the full operational uniform of the National Italian Firefighters Corps and a bright red protective helmet over his head, with a golden mirrored visor. His face is obscured by the visor and he could easily be mistaken for a firefighter on duty as a fire safety guard in the Circus, were it not for the fact that he is completely alone. As the camera comes closer to him, the man lifts his visor, revealing himself as Placidus. He unties his helmet and removes it. Then, very slowly, he removes his uniform piece by piece (fireproof gauntlets, coat, jacket, polo shirt, safety boots and trousers) to uncover a prætexta tunic under it, with two wide purple stripes running for all of its length. He smiles to the camera and knocks gently on the entrance door to the broadcast center. A very young female TV operator comes out of it. She is dressed in black and wears a white respirator mask over her mouth and nose. In her hands she carries Placidus’s toga prætexta. She starts dressing Placidus up in his toga and folds it properly. Once he has worn it, Placidus’s toga reveals a small ormamental pattern, embroided near his left shoulder, in the shape of the Firefighters Corps logo: a golden flame rising from a red circle in the middle of two golden crossed axes. The girl picks up Placidus’s uniform, boots, gloves and helmet and gives him a wireless hand-held mic. Placidus turns it on and speaks into it.

placidus. Thanks a lot, my dear. What’s your name? (He directs the mic to her.)

celia (humbly). Celia, sir. Always at your service.

placidus. You’re very good, Celia, but please don’t “sir” me. To you I’m just Placidus. (Pause. Celia bows to him and runs back into the broadcast center carrying his uniform. Placidus sardonically admits his ‘defeat’.) Oh, well. (He starts coming quickly down the stairs – just at ease in his magisterial toga as he is in is everyday working uniform. A modified, softer version of the signature tune accompanies him. He settles in the middle of the racetrack, just opposite the four magistrates. A burst of pre-recorded applause is heard at a low volume in the background. Placidus raises the mic near his mouth but does not speak. Instead, he lets out a very short chuckle as he hears the applause, looks down for a brief moment and then back into the camera, smiling.) Ladies and gentlemen, domini dominæque, iuvenes, pueri puellæque… for short, everybody in front of the TV… welcome back here for the Second Semifinal of the most excting Circenses event in these Ludi Novi Romani 2774 a.U.c. … (Short pause.) …the Virtual Chariot Race!!! (Pause. He opens up his arms wide, expecting some applause. Indeed, Tullia starts a burst of huge, very loud pre-recorded applause and cheering exactly on cue. Placidus is happy and continues.) This is Crew Captain— er, no, sorry. (Giggling.) This is Ædilis Curulis Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus talking to you LIVE from the Circus Maximum in Nova Roma… (Pause. Low applause continues in the background.)… which, in spite of what our great director Gaia Tullia Celeris, up there in the broadcast center, would make you think… (Pause. A giggle from Tullia is heard from Placidus’s earphone.)… is completely empty except for the TV crew, who are surely not as loud as you’ve just heard. (Pause. Aerial shot on some of the camera operators, who wave their arms.) But I’m happy all the same, ’cause it’s Ludi time and a great race is just about to be run, of which I shall tell you everything and everything about everything. (Pause.) I’m only sorry that my dear friend Salvus cannot be here with me today… far more urgent duties from his macronational Law Enforcement job forbade him to join me in the Circus, which means I’ve got nobody to trade jokes with. (Pause. He chuckles.) What the heck, I’ve hosted so many races entirely on my own, that I don’t think I’ll have any problems in doing one more… Salvus has assured me he’ll take a leave of absence in order to be with me for the Final. (Pause.) Before I start, however, I have to highlight the fact that the Circus is NOT completely empty, because, apart from the TV crew, I’ve got four illustrious people sitting right in front of me. (Pause. Shot on the magistrates. Placidus’s voice is heard off-screen.) From left to right, Ædilis Plebis Marcus Aurelius Cotta Iovis, my colleague in the Curule Ædilitas Aulus Iulius Paterculus and our honourable Consuls, Quintus Arrius Nauta and Aula Tullia Scholastica. (Pause. Applause is heard while Placidus introduces the four magistrates, who get up one by one and sit back down. Paterculus holds a red nappa in his right hand and a white respirator mask hangs from his left arm. The Consuls also carry masks within their folded clothes.) OK, now that the formal introductions have all been done, it’s really time to get into the heart of the race. (He pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, can you please give me the starting grid for this Second Semifinal? The second batch of three. (Pause.) Thank you.

Shot on the electronic billboard on top of the Circus. Three computer-animated text lines, one in bright blue, two in bright red, appear on the screen. Each is carried by an animated silhouette of a racing chariot, running from left to right.

LANE  CHARIOT                    OWNER                        DRIVER         TEAM

I           Corona Obsidionalis       D. Aurelius Ingeniarius   Celsus Vulso    VENETA

II          Taurus Flammeus           C. Popilia Lænas             Attila                RUSSATA

III         The Triremis                   Q. Arrius Nauta               Ben-Hur           RUSSATA

When the shot goes back to Placidus, he is shown looking down, shaking his head slowly from side to side and chuckling to himself. He is also heard murmuring Oh my, oh my, oh my… into his microphone, but with a very lighthearted, non-serious tone. His earphone buzzes and Tullia’s voice is heard from it.

tullia (concerned) Ædilis Placide, is anything the matter?

placidus (still chuckling) Er, no. (Pause. He looks into the camera. Very firmly) No, Tullia. Most definitely not. (Pause.) It’s just that I’m very, very surprised at this lineup. You see, Lentulus is a good friend, but he’s also one of the smartest people I know here in Nova Roma, as he didn’t tell me anything at all about who’d be running today. Sure, he ran yesterday, and he did tell me Popilia Lænas would run today – and indeed there she is. But apart from that, I knew nothing at all. Most of all, I had absolutely no idea that our esteemed Consul would be running here today. (Pause. He looks straight in front of him and sees that Consul Arrius has disappeared from his chair. He looks to his left, and spots the Consul next to a chariot, conversing with a muscular young man.) And there he is indeed. (Pause.) Oh well, I guess I’ll have to talk to him like an ordinary racer, because after all that’s what he is today. But I’ll deal with that in a short while. (Pause. He moves to Ingeniarius on Lane I. He wears an industrial-type respirator mask on his face.) First of all, I shall greet another familiar character here on the Circus racetrack – my friend Aurelius Ingeniarius. (Pause.) So, Ingeniari, what pushed you to let your closed calcei walk on this brownish sand once again?  

ingeniarius. Well, I guess I may say that I needed a bit of, er, escapism. (Pause.) You know, as my cognomen says, I’m an aerospace engineer in real life. It’s a tough job – okay, amice, yours is undoubtly tougher… (Pause. Placidus smiles and says Thank you! in a low voice.) …but still it is heavy. Chariot racing is helping me get a bit of that heaviness off my mind.

placidus. Yes, amice, I see perfectly. (Pause.) After all it’s the very same reason I’m here in the Circus time after time… doing these chronicles is a – how can I put it? – a welcome diversion from my grinding routine. (Pause. He looks up and sees the young Celsus Vulso in full form.) I also see that your great pilot is back at the reins, very fit.

ingeniarius. Yeah, my great Celsus is ready to get into this once more…. And this time there’s no Atrectus in sight to put himself between Celsus and the finish line.

placidus (giggling) No, Atrectus didn’t subscribe this time around… but don’t think that the others aren’t just as strong and skilled, Ingeniari.

ingeniarius. You don’t think that I’m not aware of this, Ædilis amice. I am.

placidus. OK, then. I wish you and Celsus all the best of luck for this race. (Pause. Ingeniarius gives Placidus a thumb-up while Placidus moves to Popilia, in lane II. She is dressed very elegantly: she wears a white woman’s tunic underneath a pale red stola – almost fuchsia – and a golden-yellow palla on top of it. She also wears a tiara on her head and her stola is fastened with two golden brooches. She is flashy and charming.) Good afternoon, lady Popilia. Welcome back to the Circus. I see you’re so elegant and charming, as usual.

popilia (momentarily lowering her silk mask to reveal a wide, cheerful smile). Thanks, my dear. (Pause.) And I hear that my favourite Ædilis is a flatterer, as usual. (Pause. Placidus looks down for a moment and blushes slightly.) But, as always, you are so kind and gentle that I amply forgive you for your flattery.

placidus. I’m not flattering anybody, it’s true. (Pause. Popilia slightly bows her head to one side, demurely. Suddenly a loud hiccup coming from Popilia’s chariot, on her right and behind Placidus, makes him look up and see Attila. He is visibly very drunk, his nose is red, his black hair is completely dishevelled, no helmet, no body armor. A true Barbarian. Placidus talks to Popilia.) And of course, like all other times, I can’t say the same for your charioteer up there. (Pause.) How’s he?

popilia (sarcastically) Dear Ædilis, by now you should know perfectly what sort of guy Attila is… and still you ask me how’s he? (She almost laughs.) He’s drunk and he’s a clown. As always. He drank two full bottles of red wine before coming here… “to warm up”, he said, when I asked him why. And he’s hopelessly in love with Lentulus’s charioteer, Dorothea, as always. (Pause.) By the way, he may consider himself lucky as that b— (she checks herself hastily) that girl is not around… (Placidus chuckles.) She ran yesterday and came second, so, even if we get into the final, he still won’t have any, er, distractions.

placidus (in a lower voice and allusively). Ssh, domina Popilia. Don’t say it out loud. And mostly, don’t tell Attila, but we’ve got a surprise for him – if he is good. As a racer, I mean. Not in any other sense. (Pause. He looks up to Attila and salutes him.) Salve, Attila. Welcome back here. (Attila does not respond immediately. When he does, he stutters.)

attila. (drunkenly). H—[hic!] Hello, Ædilis Placide. I’m f—[hic!] fully ready to race!

placidus (giggling). Well, I couldn’t really tell, just by looking at you. (Giggling continues.) Okay, domina Popilia, good luck for this race to you and your… er, clown. (More giggling while Placidus moves to lane III and sees Consul Arrius standing there. He does not wear his mask, although he keeps it hanging from his arm – his high position allows him not to. Placidus suddenly stops and stands to attention, talking to Arrius in a very formal tone.) Ædilis Curulis Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus illustrissimo Consule Arrio salutem dicit!

arrius (patting Placidus on his shoulder, very kindly) Placide, I’m neither your Commander in your fire station nor your Sergeant in the Army. I don’t need any of this at all. (Pause.) Even if right now you occupy a lower magisterial seat to mine, I can perfectly remember we were equals – colleagues – up to no more than one year ago. We are still equals morally, you know. I’m not superior to you at all. Indeed, like you said a few minutes ago, here on the racetrack I’m not really a Consul – I’m a contestant.

placidus (relieved and more at ease). Thanks for your kindness, Arri, but I do respect you as a Consul exactly because of the fact that we’ve been collegues, and I’m just as honored for the fact that you, like my friend Ingeniarius, took a little bit of time off of your busy Senatorial schedule to come here and get a bit of excitement. (Pause. He looks up to Ben-Hur, a very strong and muscular charioteer with a mysterious look on his face.) May you tell us a little bit more about your pilot, Consul? I think it’s just the second time I’ve seen him here. (Pause.) Ben-Hur, a memorable name from literature and film – is that really his name?

arrius. To tell you the honest truth, Placide, I don’t really know. (Pause.) I met him in a seaside town in my homeland. He was fighting as a gladiator and he was really, really good. I approached him and asked if he could drive chariots as well. Sure he could, he said. But when I asked him his name, he said: “You may just call me Ben-Hur”, and he said nothing else. (Pause.) Anyway, as you said, he did race here before, and I can guarantee you that he is good.

placidus. Well, your guy is clearly up to a good start, and because of this I wish him and you good luck for your race as well. (Pause.) Consul, now you may go sit back comfortably in your chair, there in the front row (he points to it). By the way, may you please tell my colleague Paterculus to come here? He has to start the whole thing.

arrius. Sure, Placide. (Pause. Consul Arrius goes back to his seat and talks briefly to Paterculus. The latter gets up and goes to Placidus.)

placidus (to Paterculus). Salve, collega. Are you ready to do your starter’s duty?

paterculus. Just a second, Placide. (He unties his white respirator mask from his left arm and puts it on.) Here. (Chuckling) Now I’m ready.

placidus. Indeed! (Brief laughter.) Come on, mate. Let them all off.

paterculus. Count on it! (Pause. He grabs the nappa and lifts his right arm up high.) Attention, pilots! (Pause. He counts off very slowly.) Three… two… one… (He drops the nappa.) GO!!! (On “Go” all the horses gallop away. Paterculus is not fast enough to react. He lets out two cough hits – in spite of his mask – and then, as in the earlier race, he climbs up the spina wall, balances himself, stands upright, dusts off his toga and goes back to his seat in the front row. Low-volume, pre-recorded applause is heard while he does. The shot goes back to Placidus.)

placidus (looking straight into the camera) Okay, folks. After my mate Paterculus’s near-perfectly executed start, as you can see, they’re off! (Pause.) So I’d better not lose any single second, and immediately start my narration of…

LAP I

Placidus settles behind his monitor next to the bleachers and starts.

placidus. Corona Obsidionalis, driven by Celsus, is the first to jump forward. (Short pause.) As usual, Lentulus was kind enough to send me all of the racers’ tactics, and I know that Celsus has chosen to “support a constant pace”… well, judging from how fast he started, leaving behind Attila on Taurus Flammeus and Ben-Hur on The Triremis… even if by less than one meter each… if this is the constant pace he’s chosen for his horses, he’s already got the victory in his pocket. However, a few years of being here watching and chronicling these races have taught me a great deal about the unpredictability of the races themselves. (Pause.) Here they come to the first bend… I seem to recall that there’s at least one racer who chose to “hug the spina” as his tactic, that is, passing the bend very close to the central wall… (Pause. Shot on the racetrack.) …and, judging from what I am seeing here in my monitor, I know exactly what chariot it is: our Consul’s! Evidently, the great Ben-Hur is not only muscles and brute force… he’s clearly skilled enough to take his risk in going around the bend so close to the wall without hitting it. (Pause.) OK, they’re all safely come out of the bend… thanks to Ben-Hur’s risky manoeuvre, The Triremis has now paired with Corona Obsidionalis and Celsus… a few more lashes from Ben-Hur to his strong, pure-breed horses, who are just as muscular as him, and he’s in the lead by just a few centimeters! (A pre-recorded “Oooooohhhhh!”, accompanied by some applause, is heard while this happens. Placidus cannot help but let out a short laugh. He pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, what was that you told me before the first semifinal? “You do your job and I do mine”, right? (Pause.) Well, OK for pre-recorded appluse, but I had no idea that you were capable of emitting a few oohs as well, from up there!

tullia (from Placidus’s earphone). Well, Ædilis, I’m not entirely responsible for what you’ve just heard. (Pause.) Celia, our audio wiz here, has got a full archive of sound effects and audience recordings from previous races she can tap into.

placidus (thoughtfully). Celia, the audio wiz… (Pause. He suddenly recalls.) Oh, Gee! Celia! The girl who dressed me up! She was so great… (Pause.)…and I’m such a fool. Tullia, please, let me talk to her for a bit. (Pause. Celia goes to the small microphone on Tullia’s console.) Celia, I’m so sorry for not realizing who you were, earlier on. (Pause.) Your hands are just as skilled on the audio console as they were sweet and delicate on me, so let me thank you again for that.

celia (from the microphone, cheerfully). It was nothing but a pleasure, sir.

placidus (slightly embarassed) Celia, as I said earlier, I’m no “sir” at all to you. I’m Placidus. (Pause. Celia giggles and does not answer. Placidus talks to Tullia.) Tullia, can we please get back to the race? Thanks. (Pause. Shot on the racetrack.) Over the second straight line, Celsus and Ben-Hur are now paired, as Celsus is moving forward with exactly the same brisk pace as earlier, while Ben-Hur has accelerated a little bit and managed to reach him and to form what almost looks like a quadriga. Attila has been left behind for a moment, but still the distance between him and the couple before him is very short. (Pause.) The racers are now into the second bend… Celsus takes it safely from a distance, Ben-Hur speeds up and goes very near the tip of the wall… and clownish Attila takes advantage of all this by hiccuping his way through them and he sets himself second. (Pause. Placidus is distracted by some faint musical sounds in the background coming from an unknown place, which are soon drowned by the noise of the horses’ hooves and of the chariots passing in front of him. He resumes.) So, by the end of this first lap, the situation is as follows: Celsus on Corona Obsidionalis is first, followed at less than 50 centimeters by Attila on Taurus Flammeus, who’s in his own turn followed very closely by Ben-Hur on The Triremis… (Pause. Shot on the dolphins pole above the Circus)… now that the first dolphin’s head has come down, meaning that it’s time for…

LAP II

tullia (from Placidus’s earphone). What was that, Ædilis?

placidus (perplexed). What was what, Tullia?

tullia. That sound, Placide. Just at the very moment when the chariots were speeding past yourself and crossing the finish line, I heard a sound. It wasn’t noise. It was a sound.

placidus (thinking back). Indeed, I seemed to hear something coming from I don’t know where. But I thought I was dreaming it (chuckling) and I just didn’t care. (Pause.) Oh well, if it occurs again I shall pay more attention to it. (Pause.) For now, I think I have to pay attention to the race unfolding before my eyes. (Shot on the racetrack.) The ideal quadriga built by Celsus on Veneta’s Corona Obsidionalis and Ben-Hur on Russata’s The Triremis in the previous lap has by now been amply disrupted by the arrival of the Barbarian Attila on Taurus Flammeus, also belonging to the fiery Reds… (Pause.)… and now that same burly guy is lashing his horses like mad, and temporarily leading! (Pre-recorded applause in the background. Placidus smiles.) What can I say, folks. Between the comical façade of the red-nosed drunkard and the eternal wannabe Romeo, there hides a very skilled and incredibly strong-willed charioteer. He’s so good, in fact, that now that he’s arrived at the first bend he can take all of the time he needs to slow down, get far from the wall and turn properly. Ben-Hur, following him, makes another perfect but risky turn by keeping his left wheel mere millimiters from the spina wall. In the meantime, Celsus’s horses keeps galloping like they’ve always done since the beginning for this race and… (Pause. Placidus’s smartphone rings from inside his toga – a cheerful, folk-sounding ringtone played on piano and guitar. At the very same moment, Placidus’s earphone starts buzzing loudly: it’s Tullia calling him.)

tullia (very excited). Placide!! That’s it!! That sound!!!

placidus (pulling out his smartphone, without even reading the name on the display) Yes, yes, Tullia, I understand that. Now please excuse me for a minute, I have to answer this. (Pause. He turns the speakerphone on and answers.) Hello? (One second later, Salvus’s sunny, strong, Sicilian-accented voice is heard faintly from the small speaker in Placidus’s smartphone.)

salvus. Hey, hey, hey, Placide! I’ve just seen on TV another guy who’s not scared at all of getting the bends!! (He laughs loudly. Placidus is overjoyed.)

placidus (joyful) BUDDY!!! It’s you! Are you watching the race?! [salvus (from the speaker, overlapping). I am indeed!] But… weren’t you supposed to be on duty all afternoon? And that was why you couldn’t come?

salvus (from the speaker) Yes, sure I was. But, you see, nothing’s been happening for at least one hour here at the police station. One of my colleagues turned on the TV, which happened to be tuned on NRN, Nova Roma Network… and lo and behold, there was you hosting this great race! (Pause.) I couldn’t resist calling you. Actually I tried to call you five minutes ago, but there was no answer…

placidus. Well, yes, I thought I heard something, but there was just too much noise around me and I didn’t realize what it was. (Pause.) Would you excuse me for a second, buddy? (Pause. He turns the speakerphone off, then pushes on his earphone and talks to Tullia.) Tullia, is there any way you can insert this into the live broadcast? I mean, this call?

tullia (from earphone). Sure, Ædilis. Just Bluetooth it to my phone up here and I will take care of that.

placidus. OK. (Pause. He turns Bluetooth on, which promptly finds Tullia’s phone. He touches its name on the display and resumes talking to Salvus.) Buddy, I’m back here. Can you hear me? (Pause. When Salvus answers, his voice goes straight into the live broadcast and thus it is also heard from the large TV set in the police station, very slightly delayed. The vocal tone is slightly limited in bandwidth, but it is otherwise very clear.)

salvus. Yeah, sure I can hear you! (Pause.) But… why am I so loud? And what is this huge reverb on my voice? (Pause. He thinks for a minute and then he realizes that the “reverb” is actually the delay from the TV set in front of him.) Oh my Gosh… I’m hearing myself on TV! (He laughs happily.) I’m just as live as you! (He keeps laughing, while Placidus listens to him.) Just how did you do this?

placidus. Buddy, apart from the fact that I didn’t do anything… (he giggles)… it doesn’t matter how I did it, but I did do it. Now that you can co-host with me the rest of this race. Don’t tell me you have a limited supply of voice traffic on your phone…

salvus. No, of course not. It’s an institutional phone from the Municipal Police here, I’ve got unlimited minutes. (Pause.) I’m safe.

placidus. OK, buddy, do you know the racers’ names?

salvus. Yeah. Sort-of.

placidus (jumping at the chance) Then please turn the volume down on your TV set, follow this second half-lap and narrate it. (Pause.) Over to you, buddy. (Shot on the racetrack. Salvus is slightly taken aback but complies.)

salvus. Oh. (Pause.) Well, folks, as you have heard from your good but slightly mad main host… (Pause. While Placidus bursts into laughter, a group of uniformed buddies of Salvus’s hear his voice coming from the TV and, curiously, they gather around the TV set – and around Salvus.)… he did manage to draw me into this even while I’m on duty. (Pause.) I can see that Corona Obsidionalis, driven by young charioteer Celsius… [Pause. Placidus interrupts him. placidus. He’s actually called Celsus, buddy. Pause. Salvus Resumes.) Ah, OK. Like I was saying, while Celsus has slipped into the third place, Attila is still leading, but strongman Ben-Hur, up there on the Consul’s chariot, clearly doesn’t want him to taste victory at all, and he’d much rather like him to taste some dust. (Pause. On screen, Ben-Hur bends over the right side of his chariot, picks up some dust and tries to shoot it into Attila’s face, but the latter nimbly shifts his body to the right, and Ben-Hur misses the target.) Wow, this Barbarian! He may be barbaric in his drinking and his clothing, but there’s nothing barbaric at all about his driving. Am I right, Placide?

placidus (live from the Circus). You’re most certainly right, buddy! Indeed, there are not too many drivers I’ve seen in here with the same driving skills as this tipsy buffoon. (He chuckles.) Like I was saying earlier, it may well be just a façade. Just look at him go… just before he approaches the second bend, he slows down and takes it from the proper distance, while Ben-Hur, as usual, keeps his speed and passes dangerously close to the tip of the wall… but, in doing so, manages again to pair up with Attila. On the finish line, Attila on Taurus Flammeus crosses very slightly first, followed by Ben-Hur on The Triremis, and, just a little bit more distanced, but after all not that much, here comes Celsus on Corona Obsidionalis. (Pause and shot on the dolphins pole.) The third brazen dolphin has just lulled himself to sleep, which of course means that we’re all entered the final lap of this great Second Semifinal race, namely…

LAP III  

salvus. We’re nearly there, are we, Placide?

placidus. Of course we are, buddy. (Pause.) Would you mind me leaving you for just one more minute? I’ve got to talk with my director.

salvus. Of course not, bro. (Pause. Placidus smiles.) Go ahead.

placidus. Okay. (He pushes on the earphone.) Tullia, Attila is doing so well. I think it’s time for that little surprise we’ve prepared for him. Don’t you think so?

tullia (from earphone) Sure I do, Ædilis. Let’s do it. (Pause. The shot suddenly moves to the inside of the broadcast center and does a tracking pan on the TV crew: from left to right, it frames three crew members, Tullia, three more crew members and a woman, with her back to the camera. As the shot comes closer to her, it shows her long brown hair. The camera moves to the right side of her. Revealing her as Dorothea. She is entirely dressed in black, like the other crew members, and she is properly combed and made-up. She holds a wireless microphone in her hand. She turns it up and speaks into it.)

dorothea. (softly and sweetly) Atty… (Pause. Her voice booms through the PA in the empty Circus. Attila hears it and he is thunderstruck. His eyes look around dreamily to find out where that magical voice comes from, but he sees nobody. Dorothea calls him again.) Atty… (Pause. Attila suddenly wakes up.)

attila (with the full strength of a man profoundly in love, but also hiccuping) DORY!! [Hic!] Here I am, my love! [Hic!] Where are… [hic!] Where are you?

dorothea (still sweetly). I’m somewhere you can’t see me, Atty, But all that matters is that you’re great. And this is why you mustn’t be afraid of that mass of muscles right behind you! You must go forward.

attila (still very strongly, as above) Of course, Dory! Of course I’m not…[hic!] not afraid of him. I’m not afraid of… [hic!] anybody, Dory! I’ll win this race for… [hic!] …for you, my love! I… [hic!] I LOVE you!!!

dorothea (annoyed, no longer sweet, talking to herself) Huff. Here we go again. (To Attila) Atty, now let me get things straight. I came here to spur you. To encourage you. And yet you keep doing this stupid Romeo stuff with me. (Pause.) Love? Phooh! (With disgust) That’s a word belonging to another geological era, for me. Goodbye, Atty. (She turns off the microphone. The shot moves to her inside the broadcast center. She turns to Tullia and smiles.) Was I any good?

tullia (smiling back to her) Just good? You were absolutely perfect! (Pause. Dorothea looks down and smiles to herself.) Maybe you were a little bit too hard on him?

dorothea (laughing loudly) Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha… hard??! Nah, my dear, the guy is a perfect fool. He deserves all the hardness in this world, and more. (Pause. The shot goes back to Placidus, who talks to Salvus.)

placidus. Have you seen what the power of love can do, buddy? As that old song went, it can raise you up but it can also drag you down.

salvus. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve seen that. (Pause.) Actually I didn’t know that the guy was in love. And not only that… I didn’t know he was in love with Lentulus’s lioness! It’s kinda dangerous to be in love with such a woman, ain’t it, Placide?

placidus. Well, now you know. (He chuckles.) And maybe in a short while you’ll be an eyewitness of how dangerous it can be, but I’m not going to say anything. For the moment, I’m seeing that, while Ben-Hur has risked his n-th scrape on the spina wall by doing the first bend his way, Attila hasn’t even realized that “Dory” has shut him off, and he’s literally flying across the bend. (Shot on the racetrack.) Look at that… perfect. He’s in love. (Chuckling again). But here comes the dangerous part… over to you, buddy!

salvus. Well, yeah, Placide. He’s so lost in his love dream that, while he moves past the bend, he isn’t looking at Ben-Hur… but the latter, one step at a time, a few centimeters as a time, has overtaken Attila and now he’s second. But I don’t think he  cares at all… I’m even hearing him sing… (Pause. Attila sings loudly on the tune to the Battle Hymn of the Republic – so loud, in fact, that the cameras on the bleachers have no trouble in picking up his voice.)

attila (singing, partly off-key). Dory, Dory, hallelujah… [hic!] Dory, Dory, hallelu-u-u-u-jah… (Pause. Celsus, from behind, tries to overtake him, but he is distracted by his singing.)

celsus (to Attila, angrily) Shut up, you rotten idiot! (Attila does not hear him at all and keeps singing.)

attila (singing, on the same tune as above) Dory, Dory, hallelu-u-jah… [hic!]… some day I’ll win your heaaaaaaaaaaaaart! [hic!] (Pause. Just as he and Celsus are about to enter the second bend – Ben-Hur having just passed according to his own, high-risk tactic, he starts again… more off-key) Dory, Dory, halleluuuuuujah…

celsus (next to Attila and about to enter the band) I said shut up!! (Pause.) If you dare singing even one more line from that damned song, I’ll… I’ll… (Pause. He never finishes the sentence as he is within the most crucial point of the bend. Placidus comes back in.)

placidus. (to Salvus) Buddy, I think Attila’s singing must have gone a bit too much to Celsus’s head, as he is about to make the fatal mistake…

salvus. Yeah, Placide. He’s not looking straight ahead. (Pause.) Now I wouldn’t want to be the person who brings him any bad luck, but I don’t think that the situation that Celsus’s got himself in is rosy at all. (Pause.) Indeed, just while he comes out of the bend, he doesn’t realize that watching Attila, while telling him to stop, has brought him and the left wheel on Corona Obsidionalis too close to the spina wall… way too close… he’s nearly there… and here he goes! (CRASH! Loud noise, as the left wheel on the chariot hits the wall. The hubcap comes undone. Salvus resumes.) On the finish line, Ben-Hur on The Triremis crosses first! He raises both his arms and pumps his firsts triumphantly! A great victory for our Consul, and for the Russata team! (Pre-recorded cheering and applause in the background.) You finish, Placide amice.

placidus. With pleasure, buddy. (Pause.) Attila, who’s still entranced by his lost love, crosses the finish line in second place, with a stupidly fixed gaze on his face… while Celsus Vulso on Corona Obsidionalis, whose left wheel has been visibly wobbling after he’s hit the spina wall, crosses third… then the wheel comes off, and the great blue-painted chariot crumbles down.  Celsus climbs off, he unties his helmet and body armor and throws both of them on the ground… (Pause. Loud clanging noise from Celsus’s armor pieces. Placidus tries to talk to him.) Celse! Hey, Celse!

celsus (very upset.) What do you want from me, Ædilis? Please leave me alone. You know that idiots shouldn’t be allowed on the racetrack, don’t you?

placidus. Attila’s not an idiot at all, Celse. He’s very smart. Maybe he drinks a little bit too much, but that’s it. (He chuckles.) Come on, Celse. You’re such a great pilot. You’ll do better next time. And after all, you did finish the race, so you do get your deserved Championship points.

celsus (disappointed). That’s a meagre consolation, Ædilis. A really meagre one. (He looks down and exits the Circus from its North door. Placidus talks to Salvus.)

placidus. Well, buddy, I’m sorry about the guy. But that’s racing, you know. There are people who win and there are people who lose.

salvus. Indeed, Placide. You’re perfectly right. (Pause.) Are we done?

placidus. Yeah, buddy, we’re nearly done. (Pause.) Wait a minute. I’ve got an idea. Is there a front camera on your smartphone?

salvus. Of course there is.

placidus. Can you turn it on when I tell you? (Pause.) And please tell all of your colleagues there to move over, I want the shot just on you.

salvus (perplexed). Placide, how do you know that my coll—

placidus (interrupting him). Buddy, don’t you know that I know everything? (He giggles.) No, joking aside, I heard them behind you. Your phone picked up their distant voices.

salvus. Ah, that’s it. (Pause.) Well, shall we say goodbye now?

placidus. Sure, buddy. Please turn your camera on. (Pause. Salvus’s sunny, smiling face appears on the electronic billboard next to the broadcasting center. He is wearing a dark blue policeman’s duty uniform. Placidus assumes a formal tone.) Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been watching the Second Semifinal of the Virtual Chariot Race in the Ludi Novi Romani for the year 2774 a.U.c. This is Ædilis Plebis Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus…

salvus. …and this is Manius Flavius Salvus, happy to have spent another fun half-hour with my favourite trainee… (Pause. Placidus smiles and resumes.)

placidus…and I’m signing off, of course waiting and hoping to see all of you on next Monday afternoon, same place, same channel. (Pause. Placidus pushes for the last time on his earphone.) Tullia, please fade me out now. (She does. The screen fades to black and the broadcast finishes.)


March 13 - Circenses for Jupiter Cultor

 

(This post has been forwarded from the Religio Romana list: https://groups.io/g/ReligioRomana . Subscribe there for more Religio Romana content!)   :)


Salvete Omnes,

Today, March 13th is recorded as a day of Circenses for Jupiter Cultor (Iovi Cultori).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter_(mythology)

This record appears in the codex calendar of 354 AD, so it seems to have been added to the calendar after the 1st century AD. (From the book "On Roman Time" by Michele Renee Salzman, page 122.)

As a day made sacred to Jupiter, this is a good day for offerings and prayers to Jupiter Cultor at the home Lararium.

Valete,

Marcus Cassius Julianus



Re: Ludi Novi Romani - Quiz on Classics through the Ages

A. Iulius Paterculus, aedilis curulis
 

A. Iulius Paterculus omnibus in foro s.p.d.
This is the fifth and final set of questions for the "Classics
through the Ages" quiz.
This last round takes us into the twentieth century:
1. Which classic 1920s novel was almost named after a character from
the Satyricon? (1 point)
2. In 1964, a novel was published based on the life of Flavius
Claudius Julianus (known variously as Emperor Julian, Julian the
Apostate, and Julian the Blessed). Who was the author, and what major
historical liberty was taken near the end of the book? (2 points)
3. While imprisoned at Robben Island, Nelson Mandela signed a book
circulated by Sonny Venkatrathnam, a fellow political prisoner, next
to a speech composed for a famous Roman. Who was the supposed Roman
speaker of these words, and who actually wrote them? (2 points)
All previous questions are in this thread; you are welcome to
answer any and all from now until 6:00 A.M. Rome Time on Monday, March
15th. Please send your responses in English to the email address
"arthur.f.waite (at) gmail.com", including the words "CLASSICS THROUGH
THE AGES" in the subject line.
Valete.

On 3/10/21, A. Iulius Paterculus, aedilis curulis via groups.io
<arthur.f.waite=gmail.com@groups.io> wrote:
A Iulius Paterculus omnibus in foro s.p.d.
It's time for the fourth round of questions for our "Classics
through the Ages" quiz.
Today's questions are all about English literature:
1. Proserpina appears as a character in one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s
Canterbury Tales. Which one? (1 point)
2. William Shakespeare wrote several plays about Roman history,
including one about a champion turned enemy of Rome awarded the
agnomen Coriolanus. How did Coriolanus earn this name, and what had
his name been previously? (3 points)
3. In John Milton’s drama “A Masque, Presented at Ludlow Castle” (also
called “Comus”), the titular villain Comus is descended from two
mythological characters. Who were they? What is one way in which Comus
resembled one of his parents? (3 points)
4. In the portion of "Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage" dealing with the
title character's travels to Greece, George Gordon Byron (also known
as Lord Byron) criticized an action recently taken by another member
of the English nobility in that country. Who was being criticized and
for what? (2 points)
Also, our current rankings place D. Autronia Stolo squarely in the
lead, with a perfect score on the first six questions. There is still
time for others to catch up.
Please send your responses in English to the email address
"arthur.f.waite (at) gmail.com", including the words "CLASSICS THROUGH
THE AGES" in the subject line. The deadline for all responses will be
6:00 A.M. Rome Time on Monday, March 15th.
Valete.

On 3/7/21, A. Iulius Paterculus, aedilis curulis via groups.io
<arthur.f.waite=gmail.com@groups.io> wrote:
A Iulius Paterculus omnibus in foro s.p.d.
Looking over the previous set of questions, I see that there was a
typographical error in the question on Plato. The full question should
have been:
1. Averroes (also known as Ibn Rushd), twelfth-century Cordovan
philosopher and judge wrote a number of commentaries on Aristotle -
and one on Plato. Which dialogue? (1 point)
With today's set of questions, our odyssey through the history of
the Classical tradition arrives at the Renaissance:
1. Albertino Mussato was one of the earliest people since Classical
times to receive the designation of “poet laureate”. Name one of the
works which helped earn him this honour (1 point).
2. In 1347 a.d., Cola Di Rienzo seized power in the city of Rome,
declaring the Roman Republic restored and himself Rome’s newest
tribune. What formal political position had Cola held just prior to
this, and which prominent humanist at first supported Cola’s goals? (2
points)
3. Desiderius Erasmus, a leading Humanist scholar in Holland joined
one of the Hellenistic philosophical schools late in his career. Which
one, and in which of his works did Erasmus argue in favour of this
school? (3 points)
Valete.

On 3/4/21, A. Iulius Paterculus, aedilis curulis via groups.io
<arthur.f.waite=gmail.com@groups.io> wrote:
A. Iulius Paterculus omnibus in foro s.p.d.

Below you can find the second set of questions for our "Classics
through the Ages" quiz. This instalment could be subtitled "The 12th &
13th Centuries Love Aristotle".

1. Averroes (also known as Ibn Rushd), twelfth-century Cordovan
philosopher and judge wrote a number of commentaries on a Aristotle.
Which on which dialogue? (1 point)

2. Maimonides (also known as Moses ben Maimon), another scholar born
in Córdoba, examined an Aristotelian account of the creation of the
world, alongside those of Plato and Moses, in the theological work
"Guide of the Perplexed". What were two of the objections made in this
work to the Aristotelian narrative? (2 points)

3. Although Thomas Aquinas also wrote several commentaries on
Aristotle, he was at odds with the followers of Averroes in several
cases. Explain the key difference Aquinas had with this school over
Aristotle's "De anima". (2 points)

Valete.

On 3/1/21, A. Iulius Paterculus, aedilis curulis via groups.io
<arthur.f.waite=gmail.com@groups.io> wrote:
Salvete omnes,

Everyone is invited to participate in a five part quiz on Classical
influences from the Middle Ages through the 20th century A.D.

Please send your responses in English to the email address
"arthur.f.waite (at) gmail.com", including the words "CLASSICS THROUGH
THE AGES" in the subject line. The deadline for all responses will be
6:00 A.M. Rome Time on Monday, March 15th.

1. The treatise "De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii" was written in
the fifth century A.D., but continued to be used as a textbook for the
following twelve hundred years! Who was this book's author and what
was it about? (3 points)

2. During the early Middle Ages, direct translations of Aristotle's
work were unknown in western Europe. Which Late Antique Latin
philosopher was responsible for what western Europeans of the time
knew of Aristotle? (1 point)

3. In Medieval times, the Nine Worthies were a group of nine men
thought to represent the pinnacle of chivalry. Who was the one Roman
to be included in this company? (1 point)

Valete,
A. Iulius Paterculus


















In the News - Roman Coin Portraits

 

Salvete Omnes,

In the news - another good article from "Coin Week" about the change in Roman portraits on coins over the centuries:

https://coinweek.com/ancient-coins/changes-in-portraiture-on-ancient-roman-coinage/

Good information and some lovely Roman coin photos!  :)

Valete,

Marcus Cassius Julianus



LUDI NOVI ROMANI MMDCCLXXIV - VIRTUAL CHARIOT RACE, First Semifinal

P. Annaeus Constantinus Placidus, aedilis curulis
 

Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus omnibus in Foro s.p.d.

You are about to read my account of the First Semifinal of the Virtual Chariot Race for the LUDI NOVI ROMANI 2774 a.U.c. The narrative is, as usual for me, very long and very detailed, with lots of characters and lots of events; it is mostly comedic in tone, but it also includes serious passages. Most importantly, in this narrative I am costantly mixing ancient and modern. So you have a Chariot Race happening exactly as the Chariot Races used to happen in Ancient Rome's golden years, but you've also got television, cameras, smartphones etc. etc. This is because the temporal setting of the story is TODAY rather than Roman Republican times, and the spatial setting of the story is not Rome, but the fictional city of Nova Roma, which is an idealized, stylized representation of what Ancient Rome would be, were it alive and thriving today. The narrative is written in the guise of a script for a fictional television broadcast.

You are all invited to read and enjoy this narrative, always keeping in mind that nothing at all of this is intended to represent or emulate reality. It's fiction. :-)

Optime valete omnes,
P. Annæus Constantinus Placidus
Ædilis Curuls Novæ Romæ

__________________________________________

The broadcast opens on a blurred image, on a light blue background, of a one-handed electronic clock in white script. The one hand counts down from ten to zero. On minus five seconds, a female voice is faintly heard in the background:
…and we’re on in five, four, three, two… “one” is not heard. The screen goes black and immediately lights up again into the full sunlight of a glorious early afternoon in Nova Roma. It is Ludi time. Strains of the usual heroic theme for horns, which is the signature tune of all Ludi events, are heard, while an aerial camera makes a full pan around the Circus Maximus. It is an extremely unusual and, at the same time, startling view, as the bleachers in the Circus are completely devoid of an audience. Ten camera operators, behind high-tech HDTV cameras, are plainly visible, in their short black workmen’s tunics, instead of being hidden in the crowd as usual. Puffs of green, red and blue coloured smoke emerge every now and then from various points on the bleachers – these are all rigged and artificial, as there is no one lighting up any smoke generators. The only people who seem to be quite ready to enjoy the show about to start are four prætextati people sitting in the front row on the left side of the Circus. An elderly but very dignified woman is among them. About one minute into the pan, a superimposed title appears in red-golden Roman epigraphic script: LVDI NOVI ROMANI | VIRTVAL CHARIOT RACE | FIRST SEMIFINAL | Directed for TV by C. TVLLIA CELERIS.

Immediately after the pan finishes, the shot changes to the inside of the TV broadcast center, on top of the Circus. The camera is behind the crew. Director Tullia Celeris is sitting in the center, her back to the camera. Next to her, on both sides, male and female TV operators are sitting and looking at monitors. They are all very young, and all of them wear white, shell-shaped civilian face masks. Suddenly the entrance door is heard opening and closing with a loud slam. Placidus enters from rear left. He wears completely anti-historical clothes, consisting in his full Italian firefighter operational uniform: a heavy black fireproof jacket with reflective yellow/silver stripes on his wrists and along the front of the jacket, fireproof trousers with yellow stripes, heavy military-like black amphibian boots on his feet, long fireproof gloves on his hands featuring two reflective stripes and the National Firefighters Corps’ flames-and-axes logo, and a red protective helmet on his head, which features a dark-golden visor and the same flame logo as a 3D relief item on his forehead. His face is not seen, hidden behind the mirrored visor. He has come in straight from active firefighting duty. He steps heavily with his boots on the marble floor. Tullia hears him and turns. At the same time, the entire crew also spins on their respective chairs… the boys are happy and give big thumbs up to Placidus, the girls scream out excitedly and survey Placidus’s uniform from head to toe – their eyes are a mix of dreamy admiration and love toward what they regard as a real-life, uniformed superhero.

tullia (to Placidus, very happy). PLACIDE!! (Pause.) You’re finally here! (Grabbing her hips with both hands, ironically and with a hint of sarcasm.) Been putting out fires all around Nova Roma again, haven’t you?

placidus (lifting his visor, slightly tired). Well, yes, Tullia, I have – quite literally, as you can see. (He giggles.) No, sorry, I really did. I’ve just finished my shift. Am I late?

tullia (giggling as well). Placide, did you bother to take a look outside? There’s nobody out there. (She smiles.) So there’s no point in having a parade. There’s no point in you or anybody else doing, say, a welcoming lap around the racetrack. There’s no point in having the racers come out and set up on the starting line. There’s no point in absolutely anything of this. So, indeed, there is no point in coming early or late.

placidus (relieved, exhaling heavily). Pheeew! (He unties his helmet and removes it.) Do you mean I actually have time to get rid of all this stuff and change into more fitting clothing?!

tullia. Yes, of course you do – your prætexta and your calcei are there in the back… you certainly don’t want to greet your TV audience in THOSE boots, do you? (She laughs. Placidus does as well.) Go change yourself, great fireman. I’ll just do another pan – I have plenty of time to fill, here. (She smiles. Pause. The shot changes again into the one on the Circus. The camera stops on the electronic billboard, where a computer animation of the racetrack, with racing chariots, is seen. After less than two minutes of this, the camera moves to the concrete stairway next to the broadcast center. Placidus comes rapidly down on it – now dressed, in a perfectly historical way, in his full toga prætexta. He carries a wireless mic in his right hand. Very much at ease in his toga, he descends the steps quickly, accompanied by the signature tune, and comes into the center of the racetrack, opposite the magistrates, where he stops. Suddenly, huge, pre-recorded applause and cheering is heard. Placidus makes a faint smile, slightly embarassed, faces the camera and starts talking into his mic.)

placidus (very formally). Ladies and gentlemen, domini dominæque, iuvenes, pueri puellæque… in one word, everybody in front of your TV screens… welcome here to the First Semifinal of the Virtual Chariot Race for the Ludi Novi Romani 2021! (Loud applause – this time clearly perceivable as fake, as it rapidly fades in and out with no definite start and no definite stop.) This is Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus and I’m talking to you LIVE from the Circus Maximus in Nova Roma. (Pause. The applause does not stop – it fades back in and back out.) Excuse me for a moment, folks. I have to say a word to my great director Tullia up there in the broadcast center. (He pushes his earphone in his right ear.) Tullia? [tullia. Yes, Ædilis? Placidus giggles.] I can’t understand what’s up with you every single time. I was Placidus to you not later than six minutes ago, and now I’m Ædilis? Did I graduate to anything in this extremely brief lapse of time? (He giggles again.)

tullia (from earphone). Six minutes ago you were here, Ædilis. It was the intro. Now you’re on the racetrack. It’s official. Simply by virtue of you being on the racetrack, you’re not just Placidus any longer. You’re Nova Roma’s beloved Ædilis Curulis.

placidus. Oh. Okay, then. (Pause.) Regardless of what or who I am, Tullia, what’s all of this fake applause thing? Excuse my language, but to me it’s just crap. (Pause.) You have amply made your point, with your opening pan, and also earlier, when I was up there with you, that there’s no audience. Everybody knows why there’s no audience, it’s not worth repeating. Still, I’m hearing applause and cheering as if this whole 10000-seater arena was filled to its utmost capacity. Again, forgive me, but this is plain silly.

tullia. (calmly and gently) My dear Ædilis, maybe you still don’t have a clear vision of what you’re hosting. (Shot on her.) This is not real. This is a show. Covid-19 is real. People dying everyday around the world are real. Intensive care wards in hospitals everywhere on the brink of collapsing are real. Even us behind the scenes, being forced to wear these stupid muzzles on our faces, while you’re privileged enough not to… (Pause. Slight giggle from Placidus)… we’re real. I’m real. You’re real. The people sitting opposite you are real. The chariot owners, their racers, are real. But everything else is not real. It’s entertainment. It’s a show – we’re putting on a show. We have to make people watching this on TV feel like they’re watching a show. After all, Ædilis, who do you think we’re running this race for? For a live audience? (Pause. She shakes her head.) Not really. Sure, if a live audience was there, they would enjoy the show. But they would get nothing else from it. The racers do get something, because there’s the Nova Roma Virtual Chariot Racing championship always going on. We’re not running our races for a live audience. If anybody, we’re running the races for the people who actually take their time to set up their chariots and bring them here. It’s them, the people who actually run, the ones we’re setting up this show for. Fake applause is part of the show. So you do your job down there and I do mine up here. Part of my job is putting applause and shouting where applause and shouting are supposed to be, even if there’s nobody applauding and shouting. (She smiles. The shot goes back to Placidus, who has suddenly become serious and ready to do his job.)

placidus. I agree with everything you say, amica mea. And I accept everything that you do up there. [tullia (from earphone). Thanks, Ædilis. Now you may start. Pause. Placidus looks into the camera.] Okay, folks out there in TV-land, sorry for this short and unforeseen diversion. I am really ready now. First of all I would like to say hello and welcome to our most honourable magistrates sitting in front of me… (Pause. The shot changes to the magistrates.) From left to right, my Plebeian colleague Marcus Aurelius Cotta Iovis, my mate in the Curule Ædilitas Aulus Iulius Paterculus… (Pause. As Placidus calls the magistrates, they get up one by one, accompanied by faint pre- recorded applause in the background. Paterculus holds a red nappa in his right hand and a blue surgical mask is hanging from his neck, but he is not wearing it. Placidus resumes.)… and our esteemed Consuls, Quintus Arrius Nauta and Domina Aula Tullia Scholastica. (Pause. To Scholastica) Domina Scholastica, thanks very much for taking some of your precious time to come here. That’s very kind of you. (Pause. The shot moves to her. scholastica. Thank you, dear Ædilis, for taking some of your own time off your precious macronational work to set up and organize all of this. You have such a wonderful dedication to everything you do. Pause. The shot goes back to Placidus, who is slightly blushing.)

placidus (smiling). Thanks, domina. I really don’t deserve any of this. I’m just a very humble firefighter who just happens to wear a toga prætexta every now and then. (Short pause. Tullia is heard giggling from the earphone.) Anyway, I think it’s time to meet the racers now… (Pause. He looks up to the broadcasting center and sees that Tullia is looking behind her. He pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, what’s up?

tullia (initially from the earphone, then the shot moves to her). Sorry, Placide, I heard the door opening and closing. You know all too well that nobody’s supposed to enter here while a broadcast is in progress. Unless you’re expecting somebody.

placidus (suddenly remembering). Oh! Yes, I am. Please let him in. (Pause. A man, younger, shorter and plumper than Placidus, appears in one of the windows of the broadcast center. He has a beard and a very sunny, happy face. He is dressed with a very elegant, and very historically correct, toga angusticlavia, and he appears to wear nothing underneath it. He gives a broad smile. and makes wild waving gestures with his right hand, held up high, to salute Placidus. The shot moves behind him and Tullia.)

tullia. Who is this, Ædilis? I suppose he’s a friend of yours, otherwise he wouldn’t be here at all. (Pause. The man smiles to her, another very broad, sunny smile.)

placidus. Of course he’s a friend. Indeed, I’ll tell you more. He may be the only real friend I currently have outside of my colleagues. (Pause. More formal) Tullia, please meet my current and wonderful scuba diving instructor, Manius Flavius Salvus. You can safely shake his hand, he’s just been test-swabbed and came out negative. (Pause. Tullia and Salvus shake hands.) Tullia, I love that man. He and his team brought me very safely down to more than 108 feet in Sicily last summer. [tullia (from Placidus’s earphone). Wooooooowww! That’s something! Pause. Back to Placidus.] Yes, wow indeed. He actually did. (Pause. In a darker tone) Then something happened I don’t want to talk about, and I couldn’t get a certification with him. (Pause. More neutral) But still I love him dearly, and I’m going back to Sicily with him next summer to get that card again. Please give him a mic and put him on the PA, I want to talk with him. (Pause. Tullia gives Salvus a hand-held mic and pushes a button on her console. Back to Placidus.) Salve, can you hear me? At last I can see you face-to-face instead of only through a computer screen.

salvus (smiling broadly, as above, and with a Sicilian accent, his voice booming through the PA and echoing in the empty Circus). Hello, Ugo! (Pause.) No, wait, what’s your name here? It’s not even Cosworth… (Pause. Placidus laughs.) Oh, right. (He remembers.) Salve, Ædilis Placide. Is that right, isn’t it? You’re a high ranking person in here, and congrats for that.

placidus. Oh no, amice. I’m wearing different clothes from the wetsuit I had when you taught me, but I’m the same person you taught to. Nothing’s changed. (Pause.) Anway, let’s not lose any more time with greetings. Come down here, we’ve got a race to chronicle! (He giggles. The shot moves again to the outside of the broadcast center. Salvus is seen pulling out a white surgical mask and wearing it, then he comes rapidly down the stairs and joins Placidus in the middle of the racetrack. Fake applause in the background. Placidus introduces him formally.) Ladies and gentlemen in front of your TV screen, my assistant chronicler for this wonderful Virtual Chariot Race… from Panormus, Sicily, dominus Manius Flavius Salvus! (Pause. He raises Salvus’s left arm. Huge, roaring pre-recorded applause. Salvus is slightly embarassed. He talks to Placidus in a low voice.)

salvus (slightly muffled through his mask). Placide, apart that I don’t deserve any of this… [placidus (overlapping and smiling) You do, amice. You amply do.]… I’m a soldier. I know nothing at all about chariot racing. How am I supposed to chronicle if I don’t know what I’m watching?

placidus. Don’t worry, buddy. (Pause.) First of all, remove that silly thing off your mouth. You’re my guest here and I allow you to. I’m in command. (He lets out a slight laugh while thinking of his actual ‘in-command’ role in his real-life job. Salvus laughs as well and removes his mask.) As I was saying, buddy… (Pause. Salvus is very happy about Placidus calling him ‘buddy’, as he did during their scuba training.)…while I introduce the racers, you go sit there next to my colleague Paterculus. (Pause. Placidus points to Paterculus opposite him.) Patercule, please, you and Cotta Iovis move one seat to the right so that my friend can sit next to you. (Pause. Paterculus and Cotta do.) He will explain you everything.

salvus. Thank you, Placide. (He goes to sit next to Paterculus.)

placidus. You’re welcome, buddy. (Pause. Placidus pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, please, give me the starting grid for this First Semifinal. The three in the first batch. (Pause. Shot on the electronic billboard on top of the Circus. Three lines come out of it, each one pulled by an animated silhouette of a racing chariot, respectively in bright green, bright red and bright blue.)

LANE     CHARIOT            OWNER                        DRIVER      TEAM

I               Phoenix Furiens     M. Hortensia Maior        Hyppolita       PRÆSINA

II              Nova Roma            Cn. Cornelius Lentulus  Dorothea        RUSSATA

III            Titans’ Disaster      Sex. Lucilius Tutor         Stoicus           VENETA

After all the lines have disappeared from the screen, the shot goes back to Placidus, who is chatting with Salvus, sitting in the front row.

placidus. OK, bro… (Salvus smiles, hearing Placidus call him with another nickname from their training period.) I hope you have a little bit more understanding on what you’re about to witness.

salvus. Yes, Placide, I think I got a clear picture of it all, your friend Paterculus is good. (Pause. He smiles to Paterculus, who smiles back and gives Salvus a thumb-up.) Not a detailed picture, mind you. A very broad one. (He giggles.) The only thing I’m a bit doubtful about is racing tactics. Your friend listed them, but I don’t quite know what he meant…

placidus (patting Salvus on the shoulder). My friend, never mind the tactics. You shall understand them when you see them in action here on the racetrack, and I guarantee you that (giggling) sparks will fly. Quite literally.

salvus. We shall see to that, Placide. We’ll see.

placidus. Sure, buddy. (Pause.) Before we start, I have just another little thing to do, which is introducing the racers. I see some familiar faces in here, I’ve got a feeling that this is going to be quick. (Pause. He approaches Hortensia on Lane I.) Domina Hortensia Maior Fabiana Faustina, welcome back to the racetrack, with a new chariot and… (he looks up) a new charioteer… a young, strong, and pretty girl! (Pause. Shot on Hippolyta, on the chariot. Her face is beautiful, like a modern fashion model, but she also has sharp, sculpted features – typical of a strong, rough woman. She has very long blond hair, wavy but unkempt as well. She holds her Amazon helmet under her right arm. She smiles at Placidus and gives him a thumb-up. Placidus resumes talking to Hortensia. She is wearing a face mask made out of fine white silk.) Sorry again, domina, if we couldn’t get your full Roman name on the billboard, but you see, that’s all the space we have.     

hortensia (very gently). My dear Ædilis Placide, you know very well that you’re way too kind to apologize to me for anything. And, like domina Scholastica said a few minutes ago, your kindness also shows in the fact that, in spite of everything you have to go through in your life outside of here, you did manage to organize this wonderful race. (Pause. Placidus blushes slightly.) Of course I couldn’t miss it, could I? (Pause.) As for my new charioteer… well, I’ve traveled quite a bit before the damned pandemic hit the entire known world, and on a trip to Scythia last November I happened to watch this fantastic Amazon girl rider having her way with a pure-breed horse like a man… or, I may say, better than a man. She’s extremely fierce, she’s strong-willed and strong-armed, and, as I hope you’ve been able to see, she’s got her looks, which is a plus.

placidus (embarassed). Er… yes, I’m quite aware of her… er… good looks. (He giggles.) Sorry, domina, I’m a man. I can’t help that.

hortensia. Never mind, Ædilis. Please go on.

placidus (still a bit embarassed). Okay, er… (Pause.) All best of luck for this race to you and your new pilot. [hortensia (overlapping). Thanks again, Ædilis. Pause. Placidus moves to Lane II, where Lentulus is standing next to his old-but-refurbished racing chariot, Nova Roma. Placidus is enthusiastic at seeing his long-time assistant and friend. He is wearing a white surgical mask.] LENTULE!! What a pleasure! You’ve managed to enter your chariot once again! [He moves to hug him, but Lentulus stops him with a gesture of his right hand.]

lentulus. Stop right there, Placide amice. (Pause.) I know you love me dearly as a friend, but you’re also our Ædilis Curulis, so behave as such. Be dignified. (Pause. Placidus smiles and distances himself.) Not to mention your wonderful uniform and your position in real life… you’re in the Law Enforcement business, and that gives you both the right to exercise your power, and the duty to be dignified and correct – even with close friends. (Pause. Placidus smiles again and makes a small bow, then resumes talking.)

placidus. Yes, my friend, you’re right as usual. (Pause.) It’s just that I still have to get used to my position – both here and outside of here. Most probably I never will. (Pause. He looks up to Dorothea on the chariot.) But apart from this, please allow me to repeat that it’s indeed a great pleasure to see both of you once again you and your great lioness up there, helming your chariot… or is she a panther? (Pause. Dorothea lifts her head up high, with pride, and lets out a long laugh. Long, wild brown hair, a body armour, but no helmet and no face mask.)

dorothea (sarcastically, to Placidus). You can call me whatever animal you want, Ædilis, but the point is that I am an animal. And I’m going to show that first of all to that made-up chick here next to me in Lane I. (She laughs again. Hippolyta, in Lane I, looks at her with a snobbish attitude. While Placidus has just realized that this is going to be his first-ever race featuring two woman racers, and an amazed sparks-are-indeed-going-to-fly look quickly passes on his face, Lentulus tries to shush up his charioteer.)

lentulus. Dorothea, please behave. You’re talking to a magistrate.

dorothea (still a bit sarcastic). Yeah, I know. (Pause. To Lentule). Master Lentule, you freed me a long time ago, and I thank you for that. Now I’m yours, but you know you can’t change the way I am. (Proudly) Nobody can.

lentulus (humbly, to Placidus). Sorry about her, Placide. As you say in Italy, I wanted my bicycle, now I’ve got to pedal. (He giggles.)

placidus (giggling as well). Yes, my friend, I get that. (Pause.) Well, I wish you good luck to you and your… er, animal up there. (Pause. Lentulus gives Placidus a thumb-up while Dorothea laughs again. Placidus moves to Lane III.) Hey, another familiar face here too… (He moves to Lucilius. He also wears a white respirator mask like the TV crew members. He is unconfortable with it.) Lucili, as a former Ædilician colleague of yours, I must say I’m pleased to find you here on the racetrack as well. And I’m also pleased to see your great Stoicus at the helm once again.

lucilius (adjusting his mask, which is slipping down his nose) Yes, Ædilis, it’s been quite a while since I left my footprints… (Pause. He looks down and sees he is, ironically, not leaving any footprints at all…)… er, since I last stepped with my calcei here on the sand in the racetrack. As for Stoicus, well, he too was looking forward to coming back here controlling the reins of two mighty horses… (Pause. He adjusts his mask again.) Oh, to hell with this stupid thing. I wish all this dreaded disease would just fly away and disappear. Don’t you, Ædilis? [placidus (slightly overlapping) Yes, Lucili amice, I do too. Pause. Lucilius resumes.]  Anyway, as you can see, Stoicus is fully primed and ready to race. (Pause. Placidus looks up at Stoicus on the chariot. He is indeed ready – his brand new body armor is already correctly tied, and he has already worn his protective helmet. The look on his face is extremely dignified and serious and, faithfully to his name, he shows no sign of emotion at all.)

placidus. Well, Lucili, I can see that he’s amply ready to race. (Pause.) Primed… er… (he chuckles slightly)… I’m afraid I can’t say that for sure, just looking at him.

lucilius (giving Placidus a thumb-up). Yes, that’s precisely his attitude: keeping it all inside of himself. I like him a lot just because of that.

placidus (sort-of thinking aloud) Well, Lucili, keeping everything inside of oneself is perfect in this frenetic world’s everyday life, but I wonder how much he’s going to hold that up during a wild chariot race. (Pause.) Anyway, right now, as with the others, I can only wish good luck to you and him for this great race. (Pause. Lucilius bows and Placidus goes back to his monitor next to the front row bleachers, where Salvus is sitting at ease, but the seat to his right is empty: Paterculus is not there. Placidus is puzzled and thinks aloud again… Where’s he gone?? Then he remembers having seen him with the red nappa in his hand: he is going to start the race. Indeed, he looks behind him and sees Paterculus, behind the starting line, approaching the official starter’s podium next to the spina wall. Placidus looks relieved.)

salvus. What’s up, Ugo… er, Placide? Were you looking for your friend? He’s right there (pointing to Paterculus), just about to climb on that small red pulpit.

placidus (giggling at Salvus’s definition). Pulpit… erm, buddy, to us that’s a podium. The starter’s podium. Now my colleague is going to officially set them all off.

salvus. Yes, I know. (Pause.) I’ve seen something similar on TV in other… er, other contexts than this.

placidus. Good for you, buddy. Just one more thing before we start. When I say ‘over to you’ or something similar or anyway I invite you to talk, just pick up where I left off and continue. OK? (He makes a diver’s A-OK sign with three fingers. Salvus replies with the same sign. Placidus turns to Paterculus.) All right, Patercule collega. You may go. (Pause. Shot on Paterculus. He has worn a white respirator too, by now. He looks at Placidus, who gives him a thumb-up.) Amice, you know what to do just right after you start, don’t you?

paterculus. Sure, collega. (Pause.) You taught me. Indeed, you taught us all.

placidus. Well, not that I’m aware of, but go ahead. (Pause. Paterculus lifts his nappa up high.)

paterculus. Attention, pilots! (Pause.) Three… two… one… (He drops the nappa.) GO!!! (The horses run away furiously. Immediately, Paterculus jumps up the spina wall and stands there, proudly erect and motionless, a true Roman Ædilis. Then he shakes off just a little bit of dust from his toga, which is still immaculate, and he walks across the racetrack to his seat, accompanied by pre-recorded applause. He goes to sit next to Salvus, who is amazed.)

salvus. Wow, Placide! (Pause.) Were you actually the first to do that stunt? That’s wonderful!

placidus. Yes, and there’s really nothing ‘wow’ about it. Once I was the starter, and I didn’t want to get my toga dirty, so I improvised. (Pause.) Glad to know somebody’s learned from me. Anyway, there’s no more time to talk, as we’re into…

LAP I

(Shot on the racetrack, Placidus starts his chronicle.) All the chariots are definitely up to a very good start, I see. Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster, in Lane III, advances slightly more than Dorothea on Nova Roma in Lane III. Hippolyta on Phoenix is momentarily left behind… apparently the lone boy on track is way more determined than the two girls, isn’t he, buddy?

salvus. Well, yes, Placide. What did you say he was in everyday life? A philosopher? A thinker?  He doesn’t look like that to me – he looks way more like a soldier. One of my kind. (He smiles)

placidus. Maybe it’s his Stoicism indeed – his way to keep an inner calm among all possible turmoil – which makes him as strong as a valiant soldier in battle, and maybe even more. I guess we should ask him, but I doubt he’ll answer. (Pause. Shot on the racetrack.) Now look at that, buddy. (While Stoicus and Hippolyta slow down to turn around the bend in the safest and most possibly correct way, Dorothea passes it extremely close to the tip of the wall. She almost risks scraping her left wheel against the wall. Once again Salvus is amazed. Placidus looks at him.)

salvus. Placide, have you seen what she’s done?? But is she actually… crazy? She nearly broke her wheel!

placidus. Buddy, what was I telling you earlier, about seeing tactics in action rather than explaining them? That’s one. (He smiles.) I’ve seen her doing that way too many times to know that she’s not crazy at all. That’s her tactic. While the others slow down in order to take the bend without any harm, she doesn’t change her pace and gets near the wall. Sure, that’s a big risk of actually hitting it. But, as you see, she’s now leading, so it was worth the risk. Would you please continue up to the second straight line and second curve, then I pick it up again for the end of the first lap? (Pause. Salvus, still a bit shaken, is perplexed. Placidus utters the code-words.) Over to you, buddy.

salvus. Oh, OK. (getting back into it) Let’s see now. Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster, which up to the first bend was solidly in the lead, is now paired with Dorothea on Nova Roma, but Hippolyta on Phoenix Furiens is quickly catching up with her. (Pause and shot on the racetrack. Hippolyta bends over to the right, she grabs some sand off the racetrack and, getting momentarily nearer to Dorothea, throws the dust right in her face. Dorothea is blinded for a second, she lets go of her reins, slows down and Hippolyta overtakes her. Immediately she starts shouting. The absence of the audience makes it possible for the cameras on the bleachers to pick up her shouting, which is unusually clearly heard.)

dorothea (shouting). You bastard! You cheater! You rabid bitch!! If I catch you I’ll rip your head off your neck and then I’ll pee into your oh-so-nice silver helmet!! (Pause. Shot back to Salvus, whose mouth has gaped. He opens and closes it twice without saying a word, like a goldfish. Placidus is amused. Then Salvus finally manages to speak. He stutters.)

salvus. Pla-Placide! (Pause.) Now you don— you don’t tell me that all of this I’ve just seen – and heard! – is actually allowed in here. OK, I’ve seen and heard worse in my battlefield days on active duty, but I frankly didn’t expect to witness that sort of thing also in here.

placidus. My dear friend, not only it’s allowed… (chuckling) It’s normal. It’s routine. It’s tactics. It happens at almost every single race. (Pause. Salvus is relieved and a wide smile appears on his face.) Also, about the language, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what normally happens in here. Which reminds me of one thing… would you excuse me for just a minute, buddy? [salvus. Of course. Placidus pushes on his earphone.] Tullia? [tullia (from earphone). Tell me, Ædilis.] Tullia, please, really you can’t call me just Placidus? [tullia (partly apologizing). Not while you’re on the racetrack, Ædilis Placide. Now tell me.] OK, let’s see how far can we take this game. (Pause. Tullia laughs from the earphone.) Tullia, you’ve always got a one-second delay in the audio up there. If you hear anything worse than that, be ready with your hand on that big censoring red button up there. (Pause.) In the past, of course, I did that on purpose. But now I really wasn’t expecting to hear all of that so loud and clear. I forgot that there’s no audience. (He giggles.) Anyway, back to the race. This little amount of trouble to Dorothea has made her slip back in third place. Hippolyta is a very close second to Stoicus, who took advantage of the distractions behind him to regain a bit of his lost lead. (Shot on the racetrack.) Now the chariots are doing the second bend, and while Stoicus and Hippolyta can take their time to actually do it with care, so to speak, Dorothea speeds up, passes it nearer to the wall and pairs up with Hippolyta, or very nearly so. (Pause.) So, on the finish line, Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster crosses first, followed by Hippolyta on Phoenix Furiens and, very very very close, Dorothea on Nova Roma. (Pause. Shot on the dolphins pole above the Circus. The second dolphin bows down.) I’ve just seen that one more dolphin above there isn’t straight any longer, which can mean only one thing: we’ve just started…

LAP II

salvus (looking at the dolphins pole in his monitor). Hey, Placide. The dolphins. Nice touch. Just like in the old times.

placidus. Well, buddy, we’re all about reconstructionism here. If we can do anything in a properly historical way, we just do it. (Pause.) Would you care to start this lap?

salvus. Of course. I’m honored. (Pause.) Phoenix Furiens and Nova Roma have restarted their powerful attack on Titans’ Disaster, which is now slightly leading again. Now Stoicus is slightly accelerating… is that a tactic, Placide amice?

placidus. Let me see. (He pulls his smartphone out of a fold in his toga, he turns it on, he slides a finger over the display and reads: “Hurry in the straight lines”.) Yes, buddy, that’s it. (He shows the smartphone to Salvus long enough for him to read the line about Stoicus, but not long enough for him to read the other lines. In spite of this, Salvus smiles and resumes narrating.)  

salvus. OK, folks at home, as you have just heard from my mate Placidus here next to me… (Pause. Placidus smiles)… Stoicus’s chosen tactic has allowed him to set himself in first position once again. But here comes the first bend, so let’s see how it goes. (Shot on the racetrack. Salvus is heard off-screen.) Stoicus speeds up just a little bit more, then he slows down exactly at the most critical point of the whole bend – the tip of the spina wall – so he manages to go around it very easily, very correctly, and also without deviating from his proper path. Hippolyta follows, almost exactly like her opponent has done, and a bit later here comes Dorothea at full speed and passing very near the spina, as previously. Placide, if you forgive me the cheap joke, these people are so good at going around those bends, that they’re not afraid at all of getting the bends!! (He laughs. Placidus laughs too.)

placidus. That joke isn’t cheap at all, buddy. Instead it’s very good. Only, I would kindly ask you not to do it again, because it reminds me too much of a person who I used to do that joke with, and who I thought was very similar to you, but he later turned out to be completely different.

salvus. Oh, I do have an idea about who that may be. Isn’t his name somewhere along the lines of Marcus Petronius Ior—

placidus (interrupting him just in time). Yes. That’s him. (Darkly) I don’t want to talk about him, because something related to you happened last year between me and him. Something I didn’t like, and I don’t want to talk about that either. (More neutral) Let’s talk about something else.

salvus. Yes, Placide, I understand. Let’s talk about the race. (Pause.) Up to now in this lap there have been no dirty tricks, and I really hope that there aren’t going to be any more of them…

placidus. I hope too, buddy, but if I were you I honestly wouldn’t hold my breath.

salvus. Of course I’m not, Placide. I’m a scuba instructor. I’m not a freediver. (He laughs again. His laughter is contagious.)

placidus (laughing) Ha-ha-ha-ha… Bro, you have such a wonderful way of making everything I say so much lighter than it actually is. I love you dearly, brother. (Pause. Salvus is moved by Placidus actually using the full word rather than as a nickname, and quietly whispers: Thank you, brother.) Now can I please do the rest of the lap?

salvus. Suit yourself, Placide.

placidus. Thanks, buddy. (Pause.) So, while everything went well for all three racers in the first bend, the race is again developing on the second straight line. Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster keeps leading, very slightly ahead of Nova Roma’s Dorothea, while, also very close to her, Hippolyta is insulting her in what sounds to my ears like ancient Afghan… but I don’t understand a single word of it. Do you, buddy?

salvus. No, I don’t. And yet I’ve spent quite some time in Afghanistan…

placidus. So we can allow ourselves not to care about that at all and to care just about the race. (He chuckles. Shot on the racetrack.) And what I’m seeing just now is Hippolyta about to pull out another dirty trick on Dorothea. (Pause. Hippolyta is seen unrolling a whip behind the front of her chariot. She snaps it first in the air above her, then on Dorothea, whose body armor covers her breasts, her abdomen and her back, but not her shoulders. Snap! Hippolyta’s whip hits hard on Dorothea’s left shoulder, leaving a faint red mark. She winces, then she does something unclear and unseen to Hippolyta. Nothing happens. Hippolyta then reaches her neck out to Dorothea and she also does something unseen to her. Dorothea puts her arm in front of her eyes, slows down, but this does not allow Hippolyta to overtake her. The positions remain unchanged. Placidus pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, please, give me an instant replay of that from another angle. And zoom on those two, er, maids. (Pause. Salvus is heard laughing loudly next to Placidus.)

salvus. “Maids”… (laughing) You’re quite something, Placide. No wonder the main host of these Virtual Race events is always you. Nobody beats you. (He laughs again. Pause. The shot changes to a slo-mo instant replay of the scene, seen from another camera on the bleachers. Immediately after Hippolyta has hit Dorothea, she spits in Hippolyta’s face. The latter turns sharply, and the spit hits the left side of her helmet. Immediately after that, Hippolyta spits in Dorothea’s face. She wears no helmet, and the target is hit. Dorothea wipes off the spit, but she does not slow down enough for Hippolyta to speed past her. The shot goes back to Placidus. He and Salvus are chuckling together.)

placidus. Seen that, buddy? This has suddenly turned into a spitting match. Not even two cowboys in the Wild West could do any better. That’s why… “maids”.

salvus. Indeed, Placide. You hit the nail right on the head. As always. (Pause. Dorothea is passing right opposite the point where Placidus is broadcastig from. Placidus teases her.)

placidus. Now you see, my dear, what’s the DISadvantage of not wearing a helmet?

dorothea. (shouting wildly, while racing along the straight line) SHUT UP, ÆDILIS!! (Pause. Placidus is struck and he does shut up for a few seconds.)

salvus. Placide amice, I have a feeling that if that girl put her racing horses where her mouth is, she’d be world champion in chariot racing. (He giggles. Placidus looks at him with admiration.)

placidus (jokingly) Congrats, buddy! You’re becoming good at this. So good, in fact, that I allow you the honor to conclude this lap, from the second bend onwards.

salvus. And I very gladly do that, amice. (Pause.) Well, all of the hustle-and-bustle happening now between Dorothea, Hippolyta and, yes, you as well… (Pause. Placidus laughs.)… may have contributed to switching their respective positions along the straight line, but now she’s just done such a masterful turn of the bend… so close, in fact, to the the spina wall that I can almost hear the hubcap of her left wheel scraping the wall… but, luckily for her, she doesn’t. So here’s how they cross the finish line in the second lap: Titans’ Disaster driven by Stoicus leads the race, Nova Roma with Dorothea is back in second place and, extremely close to it, Phoenix Furiens driven by Hippolyta. Now I guess that the third dolphin above there is about to go to sleep… isn’t it, Placide? (Shot of the dolphins pole, where the third dolphin bows down.)

placidus. Exactly, buddy. Just as I said before, you’re becoming much better than me at this. I’ll tell you something… (ironically) YOU host the next race and I rest!

salvus (chuckling). No, Placide. This is not my world. My world is up there in the cold waters in the lakes near Modicia, or in the warmer waters down in Sicily, but always with my trainees. That’s where my world is. This is your world. I ain’t taking your world away from you. Indeed, I advise you to keep a firm grip on it, because you’re the best. (Pause. Placidus smiles a childish smile to Salvus.)

placidus. Thanks, bro, you’re too kind. Everybody has something they’re best at. Yours is teaching how to dive, mine is NOT hosting chariot races, but let’s not go into that any further (chuckling) as we’ve got a magnificent race to finish, as indeed it’s just gone into…

LAP III

salvus. I’ll let your start this, Placide. As I said, this is your terrain.

placidus. Thanks a lot, buddy. (Pause.) Well, now that this exciting race is heading towards its conclusion, I don’t think there’s time for tactics any longer, but in several years of chronicling these races I’ve got so much used to unusual things happening all the time, that I can’t really say anything more… can I, buddy?

salvus (shaking his head and chuckling) No, Placide, you can’t. I’ve been a personal witness of this up to now, I don’t think anything can change in the last lap.

placidus. I don’t think so either, unless Hippolyta employs another of her tricks… or better, Lady Hortensia’s tricks, as she’s the one who chose the tactic. She’s the bad girl in here, much worse than her charioteer. (Pause. While the slightly darker afternoon hour allows for the powerful halogen lights on the four corners of the Circus to light up faintly, Placidus eyes Hortensia sitting alone four rows behind the magistrates, and waves to her. Hortensia responds by barely lifting her hand and wiggling her fingers, as if she knew what Placidus is talking about. Lentulus is also sitting alone, in the row behind Hortensia’s and very distanced from her. The shot goes back to Placidus, who resumes his chronicle.) On the first straight line, Stoicus is still leading, but as Dorothea is lashing her horses like mad and getting closer and closer and closer, he’s starting to feel his lead somehow menaced by Dorothea… in other words, he’s starting to feel Dorothea’s breath on his neck. (Pause. To Salvus) Isn’t this what the professionals say all the time, buddy?

salvus. Yes, exactly, Placide. Where did you learn to talk “sport” like that?

placidus. Here in the Circus, buddy. That’s where. After having hosted these races for more than 10 years. (He laughs. Salvus joins him but they both stop.) Let’s look at the racetrack, bro. What d’you say? (Pause.) Over to you, buddy.

salvus (surprised). Placide! You can’t throw the ball at me like tha— [He is stopped by Placidus whispering in his hear: Buddy, the race!] Oh, OK. (Pause. Shot on the racetrack.) Hippolyta is wielding her whip again! Just as her and Dorothea are entering the first bend – the great Stoicus has already passed it perfectly – she lashes at Dorothea. The latter shifts her body to the right and Hippolyta misses! (Pause) Here she goes again… snap! But Dorothea ducks and she misses again! And in the meantime they’re into the bend… Dorothea is millimetrically right in NOT hitting the spina wall… but Hippolyta, who’s apparently busier in trying to hit Dorothea than in driving her chariot, miscalculates the speed and she DOES very nearly hit the wall… she scrapes it with the left side of her chariot! (Pause. Scraping noise, not too loud. The hubcap on Phoenix Furiens’s left wheel slowly starts to come loose.) Phew! What an excitement, folks! Too much excitement for me… I’m very much used to the extreme calm of deep waters, and this madman at my side… (Placidus laughs) is mercilessly putting me through all this, so at this point I’ll very gladly let him go on.

placidus (still partly laughing). Okay, buddy, I do understand. (Remembering from earlier) Your world, my world. I do see. So, where are we at? (Pause. Shot on the racetrack.) The three chariots are racing very near to each other. Competing. Clearly Dorothea must’ve realized that her chances to win, and thus to move to the Final, are very close to non-existent, but also second place means something – for the overall score in the Championship. So she’s trying to do whatever she can to keep herself there in the second spot, while at the same time trying to avoid all direct attacks on her from her direct opponent – that is, of course, Hippolyta, who obviously longs for the second place herself. (Pause.) Now he’s extending her whip again… high up in the air… she lunges at Dorothea’s right shoulder, but she suddenly swerves to the right and Hippolyta misses again. (Pause. Excited, rhytmical breathing from Salvus.) Buddy, you seem to be actually enjoying this!

salvus. Well, yes, Placide. Actually I am. (Pause. Very quick breathing, almost like a dog.) Please don’t stop.

placidus. I won’t stop only if you calm down, my friend. After everything you’ve done for me, I certainly won’t be the one who’s responsible for giving you a heart attack or something. (Pause. Salvus does calm down.) That’s better, buddy. (He pats Salvus on his right shoulder.) Let’s see how all of this ends up. I’d like you to do it, bro.

salvus (still excited but much calmer) Okay, Placide. Here goes Hippolyta with her whip again… arm in the air… she extends it… but while she’s aiming to the point of Dorothea’s back where she may hurt her the most, she commits the most fatal mistake in chariot racing, which is… (Pause. He points to Placidus.)

placidus. Always look in front of you?

salvus. Exactly, buddy. (Pause. Placidus smiles at being called ‘buddy’ himself.) She gets closer to the spina wall in the middle of the racetrack… and closer… and closer… oh no, I don’t want to watch this! (He mockingly covers his eyes with one hand. CRASH! The left wheel on Phoenix Furiens suddenly hits the spina wall. The small metal hubcap at its center comes completely off and it is shown rolling across the sand. Salvus resumes.) What a hit, folks. Literally. (He giggles.) The left wheel on Hippolyta’s chariot wobbles just as she’s coming out of the second bend… Dorothea having made it perfectly, of course… and while Stoicus on Titans’ Disaster crosses the finish line first and lifts both his arms in the air, triumphantly, but with just a shadow of a smile going across his impassible face… (Pause.)… you conclude this, Placide.

placidus. Very gladly so, buddy. As my great mate Salvus has just said, while Stoicus enjoys his well-deserved victory, which brings him straight into the final, Dorothea manages to get her equally deserved Championship points by coming in second, and Phoenix Furiens, having completely lost its left wheel, crumbles miserably down on the ground at just a few meters from the finish line. A disgruntled and disappointed, but… (dreamily) oh-so-beautiful helmeted Amazon by the name of Hippolyta… (Pause. Salvus giggles at Placidus.) climbs off Phoenix Furiens and gives a mighty kick to her evidently weak chariot, making it tumble upside-down on the ground and effectively sealing its fate. (Pause. He looks at Salvus.) So Stoicus is the winner, animalish Dorothea gets her points, Hippolita gets nothing and… do you think there’s anything more to say for this great First Semifinal, buddy?

salvus (smiling to Placidus, another of his wide, sunny smiles) No, Placide. I’m most definitely not inclned to think so. I think we may say goodbye now.

placidus. Yes, we certainly may. (Pause. Very formal) Ladies and gentlemen, you have just witnessed the First Semifinal of the Virtual Chariot Race for the Ludi Novi Romani 2774 a.U.c. This is Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus…

salvus. …and this is his best buddy, Manius Flavius Salvus…

placidus. …and we’re signing off for today. See you all soon here, same place, same channel, for the Second Semifinal. (Pause. He pushes on his earphone.) Tullia, you may fade us out now. (She does. The screen fades to black and the broadcast ends.)


The Brutiad - An Epic Poem

Milton Blakewill (peregrinus) <miltonblakewill999@...>
 

Alexander Pope, famed for his translation of the Iliad and (less so for) Odyssey. He had planned an epic poem pertaining to the figure of Brutus of Troy, a legendary descendant of Aeneas through his son Silvius that would be the progenitor of the Britons. The summary of this planned epic can be found here on Google Books. However, this epic never came to pass. The story of Brutus of Troy is medieval in origin, not chronicled in any Pagan accounts and can be broadly attributed to Galilean scribes, but the originator of this story, one Geoffrey of Monmouth, likely had access to authentic Pagan records not at our disposal. Even if the character of Brutus is entirely fictional, the chance of the story having remnants of earlier polytheistic legends should warrant consideration of an epic. In fact, the outline given, despite being penned by a Galilean, features the Olympian Pantheon and various references to ancient custom.

Pope's epic adaptation of this narrative never transpired, and the notes we have indicate he was alienated from a story so overbrimming with Pagan elements. His narrative entirely abandoned Olympus and instead placed Abram's God as the figure of divine oversight. For this I am almost grateful he did not write it.

His notes did inspire two later works, but the fact you've almost certainly never heard of them speaks as testament to their quality. The first, by one Hildebrand Jacob, did follow closer to the narrative's Pagan elements, but still reworks the narrative to better conform to the epic model. Hildebrand apparently had neither the vigor nor ingenuity to devise an epic, and relied heavily on the Aeneid to fall back upon, leaving the feeling of the narrative more like satirical rewrite of Vergil's epic than a true successor poem. And indeed, this was the opinion of reviewers at the time. And likely why the epic remains unfinished, cutting off halfway through the narrative (books were published in serial format at this point in history) and there's no evidence Hildebrand finished it. The extant work can be read here.

The second epic was finished, but I wish to the Gods it hadn't been. John Ogilvie's Britannia is a several hundred-page manifesto on British Colonialism. Brutus has become now divinely appointed (by the god of the Galileans, of course) to 'civilize' the world by laying the foundation for the British Empire. The only thing standing in his way is not the machinations of Fate nor impious action against Olympus, but the Galilean Devil who seeks to undermine what (from Ogilvie's perspective, anyway) is a new golden age for humanity under the benevolent gaze of a tyrannical and genocidal empire. One cannot help but feel that if the Devil argues against colonialism then perhaps our assessment of him has been rather unfair.

The Pagan Olympians are entirely absent any those who follow Pagandom in the work are depicted as either primitive savages or idiotic fools praying to mammets whom only this (anachronistically, I would stress) pseudo-Christian leader can redeem. The work itself is a tedious drudge of blatant propaganda which not even the fellow bigoted reviewers of the time could argue was worth a full reading.

After this, Brutus fell into obscurity. Modernism, in opposition to the epic formula and classical canon, combined with Geoffrey of Monmouth's status as a reliable source of information revoked, condemned Brutus to a barathrum of forgetfulness outside the cultural zeitgeist. I hope to change this, and I hope others will follow and revive the epic formula. I am attempting to pen an epic for Brutus, and I am seeking other poets who share my ideals of artistry and the glorification of the ancient ways. 

Do respond if anything I have said here is of note.


On this Day - Severus Alexander becomes Emperor

 

Salvete Omnes,

On this Day - March 11th 222 AD, Severus Alexander became emperor:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Severus_Alexander

He was the heir of his cousin Elagabalus, who had been murdered by members of the Praetorian Guard. His 13 year reign became the longest of a single Emperor since Antoninus Pius.

There should be cake!  :)

Valete,

Marcus Cassius Julianus


On this Day - The Battle of the Aegates

 

Salvete Omnes,

On this Day - March 10th in 241 BC the Battle of the Aegates was fought between the fleets of Rome and Carthage: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Aegates

The Roman fleet was victorious. This battle ended the first Punic War and it made Rome the dominant military power in the Mediterranean.

-Marcus Cassius Julianus




Re: Ludi Novi Romani - Quiz on Classics through the Ages

A. Iulius Paterculus, aedilis curulis
 

A Iulius Paterculus omnibus in foro s.p.d.
It's time for the fourth round of questions for our "Classics
through the Ages" quiz.
Today's questions are all about English literature:
1. Proserpina appears as a character in one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s
Canterbury Tales. Which one? (1 point)
2. William Shakespeare wrote several plays about Roman history,
including one about a champion turned enemy of Rome awarded the
agnomen Coriolanus. How did Coriolanus earn this name, and what had
his name been previously? (3 points)
3. In John Milton’s drama “A Masque, Presented at Ludlow Castle” (also
called “Comus”), the titular villain Comus is descended from two
mythological characters. Who were they? What is one way in which Comus
resembled one of his parents? (3 points)
4. In the portion of "Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage" dealing with the
title character's travels to Greece, George Gordon Byron (also known
as Lord Byron) criticized an action recently taken by another member
of the English nobility in that country. Who was being criticized and
for what? (2 points)
Also, our current rankings place D. Autronia Stolo squarely in the
lead, with a perfect score on the first six questions. There is still
time for others to catch up.
Please send your responses in English to the email address
"arthur.f.waite (at) gmail.com", including the words "CLASSICS THROUGH
THE AGES" in the subject line. The deadline for all responses will be
6:00 A.M. Rome Time on Monday, March 15th.
Valete.

On 3/7/21, A. Iulius Paterculus, aedilis curulis via groups.io
<arthur.f.waite=gmail.com@groups.io> wrote:
A Iulius Paterculus omnibus in foro s.p.d.
Looking over the previous set of questions, I see that there was a
typographical error in the question on Plato. The full question should
have been:
1. Averroes (also known as Ibn Rushd), twelfth-century Cordovan
philosopher and judge wrote a number of commentaries on Aristotle -
and one on Plato. Which dialogue? (1 point)
With today's set of questions, our odyssey through the history of
the Classical tradition arrives at the Renaissance:
1. Albertino Mussato was one of the earliest people since Classical
times to receive the designation of “poet laureate”. Name one of the
works which helped earn him this honour (1 point).
2. In 1347 a.d., Cola Di Rienzo seized power in the city of Rome,
declaring the Roman Republic restored and himself Rome’s newest
tribune. What formal political position had Cola held just prior to
this, and which prominent humanist at first supported Cola’s goals? (2
points)
3. Desiderius Erasmus, a leading Humanist scholar in Holland joined
one of the Hellenistic philosophical schools late in his career. Which
one, and in which of his works did Erasmus argue in favour of this
school? (3 points)
Valete.

On 3/4/21, A. Iulius Paterculus, aedilis curulis via groups.io
<arthur.f.waite=gmail.com@groups.io> wrote:
A. Iulius Paterculus omnibus in foro s.p.d.

Below you can find the second set of questions for our "Classics
through the Ages" quiz. This instalment could be subtitled "The 12th &
13th Centuries Love Aristotle".

1. Averroes (also known as Ibn Rushd), twelfth-century Cordovan
philosopher and judge wrote a number of commentaries on a Aristotle.
Which on which dialogue? (1 point)

2. Maimonides (also known as Moses ben Maimon), another scholar born
in Córdoba, examined an Aristotelian account of the creation of the
world, alongside those of Plato and Moses, in the theological work
"Guide of the Perplexed". What were two of the objections made in this
work to the Aristotelian narrative? (2 points)

3. Although Thomas Aquinas also wrote several commentaries on
Aristotle, he was at odds with the followers of Averroes in several
cases. Explain the key difference Aquinas had with this school over
Aristotle's "De anima". (2 points)

Valete.

On 3/1/21, A. Iulius Paterculus, aedilis curulis via groups.io
<arthur.f.waite=gmail.com@groups.io> wrote:
Salvete omnes,

Everyone is invited to participate in a five part quiz on Classical
influences from the Middle Ages through the 20th century A.D.

Please send your responses in English to the email address
"arthur.f.waite (at) gmail.com", including the words "CLASSICS THROUGH
THE AGES" in the subject line. The deadline for all responses will be
6:00 A.M. Rome Time on Monday, March 15th.

1. The treatise "De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii" was written in
the fifth century A.D., but continued to be used as a textbook for the
following twelve hundred years! Who was this book's author and what
was it about? (3 points)

2. During the early Middle Ages, direct translations of Aristotle's
work were unknown in western Europe. Which Late Antique Latin
philosopher was responsible for what western Europeans of the time
knew of Aristotle? (1 point)

3. In Medieval times, the Nine Worthies were a group of nine men
thought to represent the pinnacle of chivalry. Who was the one Roman
to be included in this company? (1 point)

Valete,
A. Iulius Paterculus














PRIZES for Ludi contest participants and winners

Cn. Cornelius Lentulus
 

Cn. Lentulus, quaestor, praefectus rei publicae administrandae, pontifex Quiritibus s. p. d.

Happy Ludi Novi Romani!

I hope you are enjoying the games, fellow citizens, remember that participation in the games is a form of sacrifice and you can honor the gods, Nova Roma and your community by doing so, moreover, you can ask favors from the gods for yourself, your family, your friends and for your wider or closer Nova Roman community if you join the contest and you offer your participation as a sacrifice to Concordia, Mars, Iuppiter or any relevant god that we are celebrating. 

However, what is new and what you should absolutely take into consideration, it is that from last December on, participation and winning positions in our contests are rewarded with Census Points which determine the strength and value of your vote in our elections and your status in Nova Roma. If you collect 25 CP, you will advance to a higher class:

Contest Winner:
3 CP Cultural Points

Contest 2nd place:
2 CP Cultural Points

Contest 3rd place:
1 CP Cultural Points

The following current games of ongoing Ludi Novi Romani, honoring the Concordialia, our 23rd birthday, will give the aforementioned CP awards:


Enjoy the games, celebrate Nova Roma and your fellow citizens, and win Cultural Points for advancing your rank and reputation!

Happy Ludi Novi Romani, happy new, 24th year to Nova Roma!

On behalf of the aediles curules:

Cn. Cornelius Lentulus, pontifex
quaestor, praefectus rei publicae administrandae



 


Re: Ludi Novi Romani - Quiz on Classics through the Ages

A. Iulius Paterculus, aedilis curulis
 

A Iulius Paterculus omnibus in foro s.p.d.
Looking over the previous set of questions, I see that there was a
typographical error in the question on Plato. The full question should
have been:
1. Averroes (also known as Ibn Rushd), twelfth-century Cordovan
philosopher and judge wrote a number of commentaries on Aristotle -
and one on Plato. Which dialogue? (1 point)
With today's set of questions, our odyssey through the history of
the Classical tradition arrives at the Renaissance:
1. Albertino Mussato was one of the earliest people since Classical
times to receive the designation of “poet laureate”. Name one of the
works which helped earn him this honour (1 point).
2. In 1347 a.d., Cola Di Rienzo seized power in the city of Rome,
declaring the Roman Republic restored and himself Rome’s newest
tribune. What formal political position had Cola held just prior to
this, and which prominent humanist at first supported Cola’s goals? (2
points)
3. Desiderius Erasmus, a leading Humanist scholar in Holland joined
one of the Hellenistic philosophical schools late in his career. Which
one, and in which of his works did Erasmus argue in favour of this
school? (3 points)
Valete.

On 3/4/21, A. Iulius Paterculus, aedilis curulis via groups.io
<arthur.f.waite=gmail.com@groups.io> wrote:
A. Iulius Paterculus omnibus in foro s.p.d.

Below you can find the second set of questions for our "Classics
through the Ages" quiz. This instalment could be subtitled "The 12th &
13th Centuries Love Aristotle".

1. Averroes (also known as Ibn Rushd), twelfth-century Cordovan
philosopher and judge wrote a number of commentaries on a Aristotle.
Which on which dialogue? (1 point)

2. Maimonides (also known as Moses ben Maimon), another scholar born
in Córdoba, examined an Aristotelian account of the creation of the
world, alongside those of Plato and Moses, in the theological work
"Guide of the Perplexed". What were two of the objections made in this
work to the Aristotelian narrative? (2 points)

3. Although Thomas Aquinas also wrote several commentaries on
Aristotle, he was at odds with the followers of Averroes in several
cases. Explain the key difference Aquinas had with this school over
Aristotle's "De anima". (2 points)

Valete.

On 3/1/21, A. Iulius Paterculus, aedilis curulis via groups.io
<arthur.f.waite=gmail.com@groups.io> wrote:
Salvete omnes,

Everyone is invited to participate in a five part quiz on Classical
influences from the Middle Ages through the 20th century A.D.

Please send your responses in English to the email address
"arthur.f.waite (at) gmail.com", including the words "CLASSICS THROUGH
THE AGES" in the subject line. The deadline for all responses will be
6:00 A.M. Rome Time on Monday, March 15th.

1. The treatise "De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii" was written in
the fifth century A.D., but continued to be used as a textbook for the
following twelve hundred years! Who was this book's author and what
was it about? (3 points)

2. During the early Middle Ages, direct translations of Aristotle's
work were unknown in western Europe. Which Late Antique Latin
philosopher was responsible for what western Europeans of the time
knew of Aristotle? (1 point)

3. In Medieval times, the Nine Worthies were a group of nine men
thought to represent the pinnacle of chivalry. Who was the one Roman
to be included in this company? (1 point)

Valete,
A. Iulius Paterculus










LUDI NOVI ROMANI MMDCCLXXIV - IPSE DIXIT, Extension and Recapitulation of All Items

P. Annaeus Constantinus Placidus, aedilis curulis
 

Ædilis Curulis Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus omnibus civibus bonæ voluntatis, omnibusque competitoribusque certamini sui, s.p.d.

Due to recent developments in the proceedings of this special LUDI NOVI ROMANI edition of Nova Roma's longest-running quiz, IPSE DIXIT, I have decided to extend the deadline for answers up to 15 March 2021 (see below) and to recapitulate all of the Items for the quiz in a single post. So here they are, all of them, for your consideration.

ITEM ONE

AB OVO

Questions
1. Please translate this phrase literally into English. (1 point)
2. Where does this phrase originate from? (2 points)
3. Using your own words as far as possible, explain the meaning of doing something ab ovo. (3 points). NOTE: As with all of my 'interpretative' questions, the correctness of your answer here will be judged only by myself.


ITEM TWO

MANVS MANVM LAVAT

Questions
1. Please translate this sentence into English. You may add articles. (1 point)
2. Where does this phrase originate from? (2 points)
3. Explain in your own words the meaning of this phrase, as opposed to its translation. (3 points)

4. Which famous Italian writer used this phrase, and extended it, in a very famous historical novel of his? (3 points)

ITEM THREE

SI VIS PACEM, PARA BELLVM

Questions
1. Please translate this phrase into English. Feel free to add words which are not in the original Latin. (2 points)
2. Where does this phrase originate from? (2 points)
3. Please quote at least three examples of modern usages of this phrase, or part of it, or transations of it. (3 points)

ITEM FOUR

ECCE HOMO

Questions:
1. Please translate this phrase into English. Feel free to add to it, but stick to the literal meaning of single words. (1 point)
2a. Where does this phrase originate from? (2 points)
2b. According to the writer, who is the originator of the phrase? (1 point)
3a. Explain in your own words the meaning of the phrase in its original context. (3 points)
3b. Explain in your own words the meaning of the phrase as used in our own times. (3 points) NOTE: at least one modern usage of the phrase is usually ironical.


ITEM FIVE

This item dates from the 1500s, and it is connected to a traditional Italian story.

Around the year 1100, in a convent in Tuscany, there lived a Benedictine abbot named Martin. He knew Latin vocabulary quite well, but he was not so good at grammar. One day he read an interesting phrase in a book and he tried to transcribe it, to use it as an inscription and affix it to the convent door. However, while transcribing it, he made a mistake - he added something to it. His mistake looked trivial and irrelevant to him, but it was actually so bad that, when the Prior saw the finished sign, Martin was immediately expelled from the convent.
The phrase he wanted to use was the following:

PORTA PATENS ESTO NVLLI CLAVDARIS HONESTO

Questions
1. What did Martin add to the phrase, and why was it wrong? (2 points)
2a. Please translate the phrase into English in its correct meaning. (3 points)
2b. Please translate the phrase into Engish in its altered meaning, i.e. including Martin's mistake. (3 points)
3. What is the proverbial motto derived from this story? You may write it either in Latin, or English, or Italian. (3 points)


Rules
Please send your answers directly to ugo.coppola1970@... . DO NOT reply to this message and DO NOT post your answers on the Nova Roma ML or anywhere on the Internet. Doing any of these will result in your immediate disqualification from the game.

All of the items above are valid for the quiz, and they shall shall remain valid until after Midnight, Rome time, of Monday, 15 March, when I shall give the solutions and proclaim the winner of IPSE DIXIT.

Optime valete omnes,
P. Annæus Constantinus Placidus
Ædilis Curulis Novæ Romæ


LUDI NOVI ROMANI MMDCCLXXIV - IPSE DIXIT, Item Five and Conclusion

P. Annaeus Constantinus Placidus, aedilis curulis
 

Ædilis Curulis Publius Annæus Constantinus Placidus omnibus civibus bonæ voluntatis s.p.d.

This special LUDI NOVI ROMANI Anniversary Edition of IPSE DIXIT is reaching its end; still, the answers I am receiving keep coming from only one person. Novi Romani, I would like to invite all of you once again to take part in Nova Roma's longest-running quiz by sending me the answers to all five items, which will remain available for two more days (see below).

Right now, however, the time has come for the last item in this edition, namely...

ITEM FIVE

This item is mediaeval in origin, and it is connected to an Italian anecdote.

Around the year 1100, in a convent in Umbria, there lived a young Benedictine monk named Martin. He knew Latin vocabulary quite well, but he was not so good at grammar. One day he read an interesting phrase in a book and he tried to transcribe it, to use it as an inscription and affix it to the convent door. However, while transcribing it, he made a mistake. It looked trivial and irrelevant to him, but it was actually so bad that, when the Prior saw the finished sign, Martin was not just denied any future chances at priory, but he was expelled from the convent outright.
The phrase he wanted to use was the following:

PORTA PATENS ESTO NVLLI CLVDARIS HONESTO

Questions:
1. What was Martin's mistake? (2 points)
2a. Please translate the phrase into English in its correct meaning. (3 points)
2b. Please translate the phrase into Engish in its altered meaning, i.e. including Martin's mistake. (3 points)

Rules
Please send your answers directly to ugo.coppola1970@... . DO NOT reply to this message and DO NOT post your answers on the Nova Roma ML or anywhere on the Internet. Doing any of these will result in your immediate disqualification from the game.

I would also like to remind all potential entrants that all of the items, inlcuding this one, are still valid - indeed they all shall remain valid until Sunday, 7 March, after Midnight Rome time, when I shall give the solutions and proclaim the winner of IPSE DIXIT.

Optime valete omnes,
P. Annæus Constantinus Placidus
Ædilis Curulis Novæ Romæ

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