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