Caesar's Ambassador by Alex Johnston. A short story about Marcus Mettius. #excerpt

Caesar's Ambassador

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Written By Alex Johnston


Apologies to you Gladiator fans. Marcus Mettius may or may not have been a trader in real life. In Julius Caesar’s masterpiece, Caesar's Commentaries: On The Gallic War and On The Civil War, he only mentions Marcus twice, once to point out that he sent him as ambassador to the German king Ariovistus because Marcus “…had shared the hospitality of Ariovistus.” Sounds like a salesman to me.

Marcus should be honored. He played an important role in one of the greatest historical dramas of all time, Caesar’s conquest of Gaul.

Caesar sent his Gallic interpreter, Gaius Valerius Troucillus, and Marcus to act as ambassadors to Ariovistus. They were both taken captive, and Gaius at least was threatened with being burned at the stake (it’s not clear from reading the Commentaries whether Marcus was also so threatened). Caesar goes on and on about Gaius, writing that he is a “young man of the highest courage and accomplishments.” And when Caesar personally rescues him on the battlefield he writes that this act “afforded Caesar no less pleasure than the victory itself; because he saw a man of the first rank in the province of Gaul, his intimate acquaintance and friend, rescued from the hand of the enemy, and restored to him, and …” Marcus? Oh yeah, “M. Mettius, also, was found and brought back to him [Caesar].

In my opinion, Julius Caesar does not give Marcus his due, so I filled in the gaps. Join him as he outwits a German witch, tells Julius Caesar (and others) stupid salesman jokes, parties with Gauls and slaves, watches Caesar’s troops freak out at a bar, and much, much more. He is a soldier of a different kind – a man who lives by his wits. Honor him.


A Slave With a Positive Mental Attitude

In the year when Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus and Aulus Gabinius were consuls, Julius Caesar sent Gaius Valerius Troucillus and me, Marcus Mettius, to act as envoys to the German king, Ariovistus.

Earlier that year I was in Aquileia, in northern Italy, staying at the beautiful villa of Gaius Mucius Scaevola. He was a business associate of mine, and he had suggested awhile back that I take some time off from my busy life as a trader and spend some leisure time with him there. I needed the rest, but greedy bastard that I am I ended up making it a working vacation. Caesar had several legions posted in the area, and I spent time with the troops, developing contacts and buying and selling. Not long after I arrived, word came that Caesar was getting ready to make a move against the Helvetii in Gaul and that the legions in Aquileia would be marching soon.

I had been thinking about making a business trip up that way anyway, so I decided to travel along with the troops.  It would be safer than traveling on my own, and everyone knows that war is good for business.  Once the decision to make the trip was made, I settled down for a few days of serious relaxing before leaving.

Gaius was away on business for a couple of days, so I amused myself by hanging out with two of his slaves, the “brother and sister” pair of Apollonios and Nephthys.  We were drinking wine, talking, laughing, and having a great time.

“The life of a slave is harsh and cruel, isn’t it Sis?” Apollonios said to Nephthys, winking at me.  Nephthys’ beautiful lips turned up in a smile.  She was lounging by the hot plunge, wearing one of those skimpy two-piece bathing suits that were popular with the fashionable Roman girls.   I couldn’t stop staring at her amazing body, and when she rolled over to pick up her cup, I felt Priapus sneak up on me.

“Oh, look, we’re running low on wine,” Apollonios said.  “Nephthys, would you mind going and grabbing another amphora for us?”

Nephthys shot him a look that said “You could go get the jug yourself but I know that you guys want a chance to leer at my ass as I leave” but she smiled good-naturedly and went anyway.  It was a glorious sight to be sure, and Apollonios appreciated it as much as I did.

“Decent people might consider it unseemly to stare at one’s sister that way, Apollonios,” I joked.  It was obvious that they weren’t related, and not only because they clearly came from different lands.  She was as hot as Vulcan’s forge, and he looked like an accountant.

“Well, I don’t suppose I have to worry much about running into any decent people around here, do I?” he said.  “Between the soldiers, prostitutes, and peddlers, the things that happen in this town would make even Bacchus blush.  Besides, you and I both know that Nephthys isn’t really my sister.  Hell, I think that even ol’ G. Mucius has figured that out by now.”

I had never heard a slave talk about his dominus that way before, except for maybe during the feast of Saturnalia, where slaves and masters temporarily switch places.  But that was months away.  I was intrigued by the whole setup, to say the least, and asked Apollonios to tell me all of the details of how they ended up in the villa, and how the whole brother and sister act got started.

“I met Nephthys at a slave auction,” he said, “where we were the merchandise.  We ended up in a wagon together on the way to the block with a couple of other poor devils who were already half dead.  Nephthys spoke Greek and was obviously educated, and we hit it off right away.

“‘Look,’ I said to her after we had been chatting for a while.  ‘There’s no telling how this thing is going to work out for me.  If I get stuck with a tired auctioneer at the end of a slow day, I could wind up being sold as a beast of burden to one of those industrial farms out in the country. He might decide to sell me for next to nothing just because he wants to get home to his food, wine, and bed.