672 AUC (82 BC), fall
Rome, Italia, Capital of the Roman Republic
Eighteen-year old Gaius Julius Caesar and his wife Cornelia moved through the darkened city like every other night, staying with yet another set of friends or relatives before moving on after only a couple of days. Roaming the city streets well after midnight, when decent citizens were at home, meant their only encounters were with the unwanted, the indecent, or the many delivery workers whose carts and wagons were banned from the streets during daylight.
“I am so tired of doing this,” his young wife Cornelia raised her voice to Caesar. “Putting on disguises, having friends and loyal clients walk us from hiding place to hiding place is wearing on me. If we could at least start out earlier.”
“We would run into everybody coming home from dinner parties. We wouldn’t be safe even in these disguises,” Caesar answered. From under his thick hood, he watched a young delivery cart runner pass them by, the cone of his torch light playing on the facades of the houses as he gained distance. Once at the next intersection, the boy would block the entry to the narrow street for his cart team to allow them to pass without running into head-on traffic. Caesar’s gaze moved back to his own small group of ten people.
Caesar’s eyes found his wife. Cornelia wore a black wig over her luscious curly, red tinged brunette hair, with a cheap, dirtied stola hanging around her thin frame. This completed the change in her appearance, successful despite her unmasked face and distinct dark blue eyes, which now looked his way with a hint of challenge. His heart melted. She was the only reason he hadn’t succumbed to despair.
“I am sorry. You know we can’t stay longer anywhere. We’ve been caught five times already. I am racking up huge debts with my mother’s family to pay off the crews to let us go. With an incredible two talents reward for my head, Sulla’s men will just keep coming,” Caesar replied. “Our only chance lies with my uncles getting Sulla to issue a pardon.” His client and friend Gaius Oppius walked up.
“You should really stay quiet,” he told them in a subdued voice. “We’re nearly there, you can talk more later.” Oppius wrinkled his nose. “We should walk on quickly, away from this puke.” The façade of the closest house reeked of the results of excessive love of wine.
They reached the next major intersection and Caesar stopped to check the proscription posting on the wall. Yes, his name was still there. The shock was still fresh from the first time it had been included in this list of people that Sulla wanted dead. The high reward, equaling one hundred forty pounds of silver, was enough to tempt anyone from the lower and middle classes to try their luck as an executioner. The only escape was to pay even more when caught.
Dear Jupiter, help my uncles come through for us soon. “Even with a pardon, my estate is gone, and my priesthood too,” he said, with a breaking voice, “but the worst thing is this feeling of helplessness and being at the mercy of others.” He paused, before continuing much louder. “I swear to you, from here on out I will do anything, whatever it takes, to avoid becoming this powerless again.” He nearly shouted the last sentence, and now fearfully looked around before he started down the road again.
As they hurried to their destination, Cornelia stepped closer to hold his hand.