The Lost Statue

We were holding Rome under siege for a long time but there were no signs of the near fall, promised by King Alaric. The soldiers started murmuring and there was rumour around the camp that the king has allied with the Roman emperor and has betrayed us and this was the true reason not to take over the city. The gossip reached our leader and he understood that he could not afford to waste more time and that immediate action was required. And he came up with a plan. He gathered us, the youths in the army whose beards had not yet grown, but who had just come of age, and chose out three hundred whom he knew to be of good birth and possessed of valor beyond their years. I was full of pride and happiness because I was among the chosen ones. The king told us that he was about to make a present of us to certain of the patricians in Rome, pretending that we were slaves. He instructed us that, as soon as we got inside the houses of those men, we should display much gentleness and moderation and serve them eagerly in whatever tasks should be laid upon us by our owners; he also said that on an appointed day at midday, when all our masters are likely be already asleep after their meal, we should all come to the gate called Salarian and with a sudden rush kill the guards, who would have no previous knowledge of the plot, and open the gates as quickly as possible. And I swore in my mind to fulfill my duty with devotion at any cost and prove myself worthy of Alaric’s confidence.

Soon after that our king sent us to Rome and we were distributed between the patricians of most noble birth and rank. By chance I was chosen to serve to one of the emperor’s intimates, who used to spend most of his time in the Flavian Palace and especially in the sunken garden in shape of hippodrome, which was placed in the east wing of the palace. It was his favourite place for walk and for rest. And I was always with him as a companion in his long spells spent there because this patrician was particularly interested in my life with the “barbarous Vesgoths, who enslaved me and were very cruel towards me and the other people of my own tribe”, according to my words. I was telling him about the way we were defeated by their king and the atrocities that followed the defeat. He also wanted to know about the Vesgoth army, about their equipment and the different tactics they were using in battle as if this could prevent our inevitable success. And I shared everything without hesitation because I wanted to earn his full confidence and I was also afraid that he was testing me. I couldn’t believe that one of the foremost Roman patricians and generals is unaware of such important details about his enemy and because of that I was very suspicious and careful with all his questions.

But despite all my doubt and uncertainty I spent a wonderful time in the Flavian Palace. It is a great construction with marvelous sculptures, statues and busts, and reliefs. I could stand and enjoy a work of art for hours, discussing it with my master. This was the most pleasant of the time spent in Rome. The noble patrician loved to talk about art and to lecture me about the principles of Roman art and the distinctions between different styles, about the importance of the art in society and in politics. He showed me a whole new world of wonders. But among all these beautiful creations one struck me most with its enormous power and significance. It was the favourite statue of my master and it was his favourite not without a reason. This masterpiece was a statue of Emperor Domitian of gold and silver, placed in the very centre of the sunken garden and was one of the few images of this emperor that survived. Most of the others were destroyed by the members of the senate because of their hatred towards him. His inscriptions were