Friday, January 2, 2015

Fortune's Favorites: Recurring Motifs

All right, as before, I want to discuss some recurring motifs in the series.  A few ground rules are in order here.  It doesn't count if the past incident is expressly acknowledged.  For instance, in the first novel, Sulla's future wife starved herself to force her parents to let her marry him.  In the second novel, Sulla's daughter starts starving herself to force her father to let her marry young Marius.  This does not count because the characters mention that she is following in her mother's footsteps.  In the first novel, Sulla sees his old boyfriend Metrobius and his wife Julilla sees them in action in commits suicide.  In the second novel, after Sulla sees Metrobius, his sick son takes a turn for the worse and dies.  In the third novel, after Sulla sees Metrobius, his wife Dalmatica is taken ill and dies.  This does not count because Sulla expressly believes that every time he sees Metrobius, someone in his family will dies.  Nor does it count if some particular subject is raised more than once.  For instance, Caesar has two eccentricities, an aversion to alcohol and a habit of removing all his body hair. Peeking ahead, it appears that his hairlessness and teetotalling get mention in future books, but they are simply continuation.  To count, similar things must independently happen in an earlier and later novel with no recognition of the repetition.  So here we go.

In all three books, whenever anyone receives a letter, the author emphasizes how difficult it is to decipher the writer's chicken scratch.  The purpose appears to be to emphasize how cool Caesar is because he can read any writing at a glance.

In Rome the licker fish feasted off the city's sewers.  Despite its dubious diet, the Roman aristocracy esteemed it as a delicacy.  In First Man in Rome, Sulla recounts this to the actor Metrobius to show how decadent the Roman aristocracy is.  In Fortune's Favorites, a feast is being held to celebrate the inauguration of the new consuls.  Caesar, resentful that as flamen dialis (high priest of Jupiter), he is forbidden to eat most of what is being served, points out what the licker fish is and ruins the feast for the new consul.

In The Grass Crown, the most respected physician in Rome is Apollodorus, who Sulla hold in the utmost respect ever since he figured out that one of Sulla's political rivals who was suddenly taken ill and died was actually poisoned.  (Although it doesn't occur to him to suspect Sulla, just because he was drinking with his victim right before he got sick).  Apollodorus in on hand whenever anyone is seriously ill or injured, including difficult births.  (Somehow, they all end up dying, though).  In Fortune's Favorites, Sulla's most trusted doctor his Lucius Tuccius.  We, the readers, learn to trust him too after Caesar is slow in recovering for a severe attack of malaria and Lucius Tuccius recognizes that he is anemic and orders him to eat liver.  Lucius Tuccius is on hand whenever anyone is seriously ill, including difficult births.  Somehow, most of them end up dying, though.

In First Man in Rome, when Julilla was starving herself, her life is saved by feeding her milk, eggs and honey beaten to a foam, with wine added to make it pink.  In Fortune's Favorites, when Caesar is recovering from malaria-induced anemia, besides liver he is told to eat milk and eggs beaten together. His family has to add a lot of sweet wine for him to tolerate it.  And when King Nicomedes of Bithyinia is dying, all he can tolerate is a blend of milk, honey, and wine.

In First Man in Rome, Livia Drusa is held prisoner in her house by her brother to protect the family name.  When she marries, her husband gives her money and lets her go shopping, but she fails to appreciate her liberation because of an unreasoning aversion to him.  (That aversion is shown as justified in The Grass Crown, and this time her brother comes to her rescue).  In Fortune's Favorites, Servilia has been held prisoner in her house by her uncle (Livia Drusa's brother) and eagerly looks forward to marriage as liberation.  Her marriage doesn't go so well, though.

In The Grass Crown, Servilia Caepionis (aunt of the other Servilia) has a very comfortable pregnancy and seems to flourish until her labor begins and she has a sudden hemorrhage and dies.  She goes from terrible pain to blissful detachment within two hours.  In Fortune's Favorites, Aemelia Scaura flourishes during pregnancy and has no nausea, even when Pompey (her husband) calls her his "delectable wee pudding," his "adorable kitten," his "darling little roly-poly girl," and his "greedy little piggy wiggy."  (The reader may not have so strong a stomach!)  Then she goes into premature labor, starts hemorrhaging, and bleeds her way from pain to oblivion.

In The Grass Crown, Marcus Livius Drusus calls for Rome to guarantee sale of grain at five sesterces in good years and bad.  He argues that, although they will have to debase the currency somewhat, it should be affordable if a standing fund is established because the state can buy grain for less than five sesterces in good years and sell it at a profit, then use the profits to fund buying it in bad years, which are less common than good years.  In Fortune's FavoritesMarcus Aemilius Lepidus calls for restoring the practice of selling grain at ten sesterces in good years and bad.  He argues that Rome can afford to do so indefinitely since grain costs less than ten sesterces in good years, so the state can sell at a profit and use the funds to finance sales in bad years, which are less common than good years.  Both men's advocacy of these measures is a matter of historical record.  Whether they both made the same argument I do not know.

In First Man in Rome, King Jugurtha of Numidia rebels against Rome and is defeated by Marius and captured by Sulla.  He is to be led through Rome in the triumphal parade and then strangled. Fearless, he has a pleasant feast with his captures the night before the parade and discusses the past and potential future with no hint of resentment.  But when he asks Sulla who deserves credit for the victory, him or Marius, Sulla breaks his cheer by saying that this is an attempt to sow discord, and for that he will not strangle Jugurtha, but will throw him into the pit and leave him to starve.  (Jugurtha nonetheless meets his fate with great courage).  In Fortune's Favorites, Caesar crucifies 500 pirates who held him for ransom.  He makes them set up their own crosses, telling them that if they do it wrong, they will suffer more.  The pirate chief nonetheless shirks and gets Caesar to set the cross up. He then grins and jokes (even as he is about to be crucified) that, "I may not be an engineer, but I engineered my executioner into making my cross."  Caesar breaks his cheer by saying that for that he will not break his legs, but will leave him to suffocate for days.

And finally, this one calls for some peeking ahead, but it is a biggie.  In Fortune's Favorites, Pompey goes to Spain to fight Quintus Sertorius, a follower of Marius who has broken Spain off from Rome and set up his independent country there.  Having difficulty with the war, he offers a reward to anyone with information leading to Sertorius' capture.  Marcus Peperna Veiento, a trusted follower of Sertorius, gets close enough to him at a feast, kills him, and presents his head to Pompey.  Pompey says the reward was for information leading to Sertorius' capture, not for his head.  Even when Peperna offers Pompey all of Sertorius' papers, showing who his allies are in Rome who wanted him back, Pompey burns the papers and has Peperna executed.  In the future, Caesar and Pompey will wage war and Caesar will win.  Pompey will flee to Egypt where he has trusted followers, leaving his papers behind.  Caesar will burn them.  Pompey's trusted followers in Egypt will kill him and present Caesar with his head.  Caesar will be furious and execute them.  And this is one that cannot be blamed on the author's fondness for recurring motifs.  It is actual historical fact.*

*Classical historians say that both Caesar and Pompey burned the papers unread.  The author has them read the papers, memorize the contents, and then burn them.

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