Centurion: From Glory to Glory

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Fading Glory

“Then they will see the son of man coming in a cloud with power and greatglory.” – Jesus

After nightfall the guards led Gaius to the other end of the Legate’s villa. In the quieter, more inconspicuous inner chamber of his quarters, a discreet conversation was about to take place. Vitellius wanted to explore some questions away from the vigilant eyes of the Tribunus. Gaius entered the chamber and, as usual, stood at attention. Vitellius was reclining as a young attendant stood by, ready to serve food and wine.

Looking up he said, “Ah, you are here.” He stood and walked around the soldier as if he had been summoned for a personal inspection. “You are the consummate soldier. At least that is what your superiors have told me. You constantly train and expect perfection from your troops, yet in this one matter you seem to have strayed from the Roman way. That is most curious.” He walked away and reclined again at a side table. “Come, relax, join me for some refreshment.”

Gaius didn’t move. This was most unexpected. Legates rarely associated with lower ranks, and though General Sextus had taken him into his confidence, that was a lifetime ago.

“Please,” the Legate said, “don’t make me issue a command.”

Gaius removed his cloak and reclined on the adjoining couch, but he didn’t take any food or drink. He was cautious. Roman generals and politicians were clever, always using kindness to their own advantage. “You have been in this god forsaken land for, what, five years? In all this time your record has been untarnished. In fact, you have been honored and awarded medals on a number of occasions, distinguishing yourself among your peers.” Gaius was dressed in his full armor, and the medallions that adorned it spoke volumes of his obedience and heroism. He remained stoic, not allowing pride to weaken his resolve. Truth was his only weapon, and as his new faith affirmed, would set him free.

“I am sure you remember my predecessor, Pontius Pilate? He had come to believe some strange things in the waning years of his political career.” The Legate was accustomed to asking questions and judging people from their smallest reactions. Gaius was a challenge, but at the mention of Pilate he saw a slight twitch around Gaius’ eyes.

“So you are familiar with him. Yes, he had the pitiable position of dealing with an unruly Jewish sect that in the end cost him his position. You may have heard of the man¾Jesus? He was supposed to be some Jewish Messiah, but it all ended badly for him and his followers.”

That wasn’t true, but Gaius wouldn’t be pulled into an argument. He waited patiently for a question, and then he would speak freely. “It seems,” the Legate continued, “that this cult has had an effect on you as well. I would hate to pass judgment on such a fine soldier without truly understanding your motivation. I have brought you here, away from prying eyes, to give you an opportunity to speak freely. Tell me how you have come to reject your family and Rome.”

Of all the statements the Legate had made, it was the last that cut Gaius to the core. To his fellow soldiers, commanders, and the Legate, his new faith was a rejection of them personally. Yet, how else could it seem? Family was Rome, Rome the Empire, and the Empire, Caesar. To reject the beliefs of one was to reject them all. Gaius didn’t believe that to be the case. His new faith grounded the core beliefs of Rome, but only rejected that which was not true. Fearing that his words would be inadequate, Gaius said a prayer and began…

Walking down the gangplank, Gaius ducked and dodged deckhands as they went about their duties unloading the transport. He was glad to set foot on solid ground again: he was a foot soldier not a sailor. Yet even the ground seemed to sway under his feet. Another centurion slapped him on the back and laughed when Gaius lost his footing and almost fell to the ground. It was all in good fun and he didn’t take offense.

Soldiers were responsible for their own equipment, and though a centurion could have an orderly attend to his, Gaius never liked someone else handling his armor. There was little room around the dock, and the soldiers made their way to a staging area where centuries met and received orders from their commander. Gaius’ century was to report to the commander at Fort Antonia, on the southwest side of Jerusalem. It was a day and half march from the port. He instructed the men in his century to set up camp, and be ready in the morning. They were as eager as he to get land under their feet, and some even hoped to begin their march right away, but Gaius’ century would not be alone. A total of four centuries were marching together. There had been relative peace in this part of the world, but still, bands of rebels attacked small groups of soldiers. It was better for them to display a strong contingent.

Amidst the thousand men who arrived by sea, that night Gaius sat at the fire feeling alone. This was his first time being away from Manius and Appius, but good soldiers didn’t dwell on the past. Sitting next to him was Servius, Optio of the century. “Servius, do you have anyone you miss in Rome?”

Astonishment was evident on his face. Gaius hadn’t been the most open centurion he had served under, and they had rarely spoken the whole voyage. “I have a brother,” he said. “He and his family work a farm north of Rome. The rest of my family died a few years ago.”

“Sorry to hear that.” Gaius was sincere. He knew the importance of family and would never wish ill on anyone. “Why did you join the army?’

“I suppose, like most everyone, I needed money, and hoped for some adventure.” Servius hadn’t been in the army when they fought against Arminius. This was his first venture away from home. “My brother and I weren’t close. These are my brothers.” He gestured to the other men sitting around them.

Gaius understood. They sat quietly until the fire burned low, and then he excused himself and went to bed. Gaius slept restlessly; he knew that he would never go home again, which reinforced the brotherhood of the men with whom he served.

The soldiers left Caesarea south by way of the Via Maris, and cut inland north of Joppa, encamping at Antipatris. The city lay at the headwaters of the Yarkon River. It blocked traffic on the coast, forcing the Via Maris through a narrow funnel between the river and the mountains and creating a strategic advantage. It provided a refreshing break from the hot and dusty road.

Gaius missed marching along well-built roads of Rome. These Judean secondary roads were little more than footpaths, and they had to be careful not to twist their ankles. Everyone was tired when the city of Jerusalem came into view. Gaius wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but the massive wall, 100 feet high, with two large columns on either side towering even higher, was breathtaking. When they entered the gate the market place was buzzing with commerce, and though people moved to allow them through, their attitude reflected annoyance more than fear. Gaius noticed their destination, the Fort of Antonia, slightly to the west. Both he and his men were ready to call this day ended.

Just as General Sextus had said, a messenger came to Gaius fifteen days after their arrival to summon him to King Herod’s palace. No one questioned why he, of all the officers, would be invited to speak with Pontius Pilate, but everyone’s curiosity was piqued. Pilate was from the equestrian class in Rome, and though he had authority over the garrison stationed at the fort, he was more an administrator of Roman investment, that is imperial taxes. Civil administration was left in the hands of the local government. He used the garrison as the stick to keep the locals in line and guard the interests of the empire. Pilate hated the Jews, and loathed being in Jerusalem. He came here as little as possible, and this trip was with a specific purpose.

“Tell me, Centurion.” Pontius Pilate exuded an air of superiority. “Are you just come from Rome?”

“Yes, my Lord,” Gaius said.

“I can smell it. There is something about that glorious city that stains the soul with an irresistible allure.” He closed his eyes and breathed in as if the dust on Gaius’ sandals were the dust of Rome itself. Gaius thought it silly, since the dust was probably mixed with the blood of Jews this man had put to death. Pilate’s infamy was well known, and it was obvious the antagonism between he and the populace he governed was mutual.

“I see you have something for me.” He took the pouch, with General Sextus’ seal, and retreated to his desk. Sitting he opened it carefully, anxious and afraid of the news it contained.

To Pontius Pilate,

Procurator of the province of Judea, may the grace of the gods and the Emperor be with you. You have been a faithful servant of Rome and diligent in performing your duties. It is with the gratitude of Caesar that you receive this communiqué.

The Emperor Tiberius has been made aware of the methods you employ to maintain order among the Jewish people. They have proven themselves effective in maintaining stability, yet they have also created an atmosphere of discontent among the nation’s leaders. The Emperor has received numerous complaints of administrative mismanagement and accusations of corruption. Though he does not consider these to be true, he does want to bring the matter to your attention; in this way you may avoid any action taken by his hand.

The letter was signed by Sejanus, and sealed with the imperial seal. It was Sejanus who made him procurator, and could be as ruthless as he. Why would he chastise him so? “Who gave you this pouch?”

“General Sextus of the First Cohort in Rome, my lord.” Gaius was used to commanders flying off the handle. They had little discipline, and believed the world to revolve around them. So it was with Pilate.

“I can’t believe they would bend to the will of such miscreants and refuse. The Jews are no more than mosquitoes, and you deal with mosquitoes by squashing them.” He was pacing back and forth, ranting. Looking at Gaius he continued, “You’re new to this hell hole, and you will realize soon enough that the arrogance of these little people far exceeds their power to achieve greatness. They pray to a powerless god, and dream of faded glory.” He pointed to Herod’s palace, a Roman structure. “Herod is a puppet and mimicked the greatness of Rome. If the…” Pilate stopped short of mentioning the Emperor’s name out loud. “If Rome would quit capitulating to these people I would be able to do my job better.” He had come to the end of his tirade and noticed that Gaius was still at attention. “Centurion,” he said slowly and carefully, “what you have heard is my frustration. It is best if you forget everything.”

“My duty is to you and Rome, my lord. It is forgotten.” Gaius cared nothing for politics or the personal matters of the Empire’s subjects. His job was to follow commands, conquer, and maintain order. Anything else he left gladly to the politicians. Nonetheless he was relieved when Pilate dismissed him. The conditions in the upper city were much nicer than the area where the Fort lay, and Gaius was a little envious as he walked through the streets. He had some time before he was required to report back, and decided to take a detour and see the theater that King Herod had built in honor of Rome. It was one of the tallest structures in the city and wasn’t hard to find. It was built against the wall that separated the upper city from the lower. Any envy he felt at the wealthy’s accommodations compared to his own soon disappeared when he looked past the theater to the lower city. The houses below were built of limestone and many were crumbling as the poor eked out a living and a place to stay. His empathy sprang from his own meager beginnings.

He turned north and made his way through the Tyropoean Valley, past the base of the Jewish Temple. There was a stairway leading up and into the outer court of the temple structure. He had been cautioned about going into that area for fear of upsetting the Jews, but his curiosity won out and he walked up the stairs, melting into the crowd.

He definitely felt the animosity and the glares coming from the temple worshipers. Most were Jews, who waited for an opportunity to enter the temple proper, where, near the entrance to the inner court, a commotion was stirring. He couldn’t see past the large crowd, but everyone fell silent as the scene escalated. Some young rabbi was upsetting the merchants, who were selling the ritual sacrifices, by turning their tables over and chasing them off with a homemade whip. Most of the people around Gaius seemed to cheer on the rabbi, and were amazed when the temple authorities approached him. From what Gaius could tell the young Rabbi didn’t back down, but claimed that everything happening was in violation of God’s original purpose for the Temple. Instead of arresting him though, the Jewish authorities moved out of the way and let him and his disciples leave. It looked to Gaius that Rome had little to worry about when it came to the Jews; they couldn’t get along with each other. He was tempted to follow the rabbi out the western gate, but he reined in his inquisitiveness and quickly left the way he came. Returning to the fort, he found his century taking care of business, which filled him with pride. They were so much more responsible than his first command.

Since being attached to a new century and stationed far from home, Gaius’ attachments shifted from common soldiers to those of his own rank. Optio Servius had become dear to him as they formed a close kinship, and a centurion named Gnaeus also had an affinity with Gaius. They both had joined the army around the same time, they both came from families of Rome, and they both believed in strong discipline, though Gnaeus was a little harsher.

“Gnaeus, I had an extraordinary experience today.” Gaius retold the story of his entrance into the Temple. “Are Jews always this zealous about what they believe?”

“I’ve been here a year Gaius, and I try to stay away from these people as much as possible. They’re like pets. If you get to know them it makes it harder when you have to put them down.” Gnaeus chuckled. “I’d never have such a contentious pet.”

“I suppose, but I just can’t help being drawn to understand them. Other than fighting in Germania, this is my first time on foreign soil. I guess I never realized how big the world is. Think about it. Palestine is just a small part of the empire, and it will probably be the last place I ever go. I want to make the most of my time.”

Gnaeus feigned a look of bewilderment. “Maybe you should have been a philosopher rather than a soldier. You could kill them with your ideas instead of your sword, though they’d listen to you a lot less.”

Every time crowds of people formed, a squad of soldiers was dispatched to maintain order. Most of the time the gatherings were rabbis who had congregated with their disciples to debate the disciples of another rabbi. There was endless debate among the Jews, and they couldn’t get enough teaching about their god. As children, most Romans learned the basics about the gods and paid little attention to them when they grew up, except for festivals. These people believed in one god who had chosen them to receive his commands and would build through them a great kingdom. Something must have gone terribly wrong, because the glory of their kingdom had long faded, and was only propped up by the greater glory of Rome.

Zealots believed that god would raise up a messiah to deliver them from the Romans. On occasion they caused mischief. It was Gaius’ responsibility to remind them of their futility. Any zealots caught promoting insurrection met with the most excruciating punishment devised by the Roman Empire¾crucifixion. It wasn’t a pleasant task, but soldier’s hearts grew callous to the pain and suffering of people they believed inferior. What did Gnaeus say about pets? A few times he had to repel children who threw rocks from the rooftops. Some of the centurions showed little mercy, dragging the boys into the street and flogging them. They wanted to teach them that being a zealot had consequences. Gaius believed it only hardened their resolve and pushed them closer to the zealots. He showed no mercy toward rebels and criminals, but he had compassion for law-abiding residents. Deep down they weren’t any different than he was, trying to survive, falling in love, and having a family. Maybe it was these desires that had abandoned him long ago that found vicarious residence in his heart.

Local governments, throughout the Roman Empire, were responsible for handling civil and domestic law. Soldiers rarely interfered unless riots broke out, or rumors of insurgency needed to be squelched. These Jews, being unruly by nature, seemed to spawn such groups. Religious and civil leaders were pressed to maintain order if they didn’t want the heavy hand of the army to displace their position and deal harshly with the citizenry. Gaius was dispatched with a contingent of men to keep watch over a group gathering near the small town of Jericho. Down along the plain, toward the river, a man had been living in the wilderness area preaching and calling the locals to reject pagan ways, repent, and turn back to their god. Rome had little interest in the religious nature of these people, but this man was stirring up trouble for King Herod. He was accusing him of divorcing his first wife, Phasaelis, and marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias, saying something about it being against their law.

“You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” John was pointing at the Pharisees and Sadducees who had come to be baptized. Gaius thought it odd that he would react so harshly toward the leaders of his religion.

“Therefore, bear fruit in keeping with repentance. The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” The Pharisees and Sadducees looked angry as John turned toward the south and pointed in the direction of King Herod’s summer palace. “You claim to believe in the law, but turn a blind eye to that viper, who flaunts his wickedness before the people. He has married his brother’s wife, and the lust of his heart has brought shame on God’s people.” Off to one side, Gaius saw four palace guards. They didn’t try to stop John for fear that the crowds would turn on them. He was considered a prophet, and Herod didn’t want any trouble. Gaius chuckled to himself, imagining the pillow talk between Herod and his wife. He was sure Herod got an earful.

There was such an expectant enthusiasm from the crowd. They were asking him questions.

“Are you the Christ?”

“What should we do?” some tax collectors asked.

Caught up in the moment, one of Gaius’ men, who had positioned himself close to the crowd, asked, “What about us, what shall we do?”

The question hinted of cynicism, but the prophet answered as if the question was from the heart, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” The surprised look on the soldier’s face almost made Gaius laugh. Some soldiers helped the tax collectors press merchants for more money then they owed. Extortion was an easy way to make a little extra coin.

The crowd dissipated and Gaius turned his soldiers toward Jerusalem. Servius was walking next to Gaius when he said, “What do you think about that man? Do you think he is a prophet of their god?

“If he is, his god is going to have to protect him. I don’t know how much more King Herod is going to take before he begins losing honor among the other royals and Rome. We would never let someone speak so against Caesar.” Gaius had heard people whisper about palace intrigue, but no one would openly defy the glory of Rome.

“He’s not the only one of these prophets. There’s another one who has been making his way through the countryside. I’ve heard that he has healed people.” Servius was animated as he talked.

“Don’t tell me you believe these rumors.”

“Strange things happen in these foreign countries. I wouldn’t mind seeing one or two, miracles just to have my curiosity satisfied,” Servius said. Deep down Gaius felt the same way. The passion these people had for their religion was extraordinary. He recalled the first encounter at the Temple, and yes, he would like to see a miracle and hear that man speak, but most of the rumors where coming out of the province of Galilee. A legion was stationed in that area, and unless there was some formal request for his presence, he would have to be satisfied with hearsay.

Not two months after the incident at the Jordan River, King Herod had John arrested. He claimed it was to quell the rebellious nature of the prophet’s actions. The King accused him of raising too significant a number of followers. They threatened the stability of the region. No one, of course, believed him. He was threatened by John’s accusations and, prompted by his wife, dispatched the prophet’s head. That, they thought, ended the matter. Curious enough was the resulting action. Instead of his actions dispersing the crowds, they began to follow the young rabbi, Jesus. Rumor had it that the crowd followed him to a region north of the Sea of Galilee, and he miraculously fed them from a meager handful of provisions. Gaius thought it interesting that King Herod didn’t see him as a threat.

What began to draw Gaius’ interest toward the man from Galilee was a conversation he had with a fellow centurion from Capernaum. Cornelius had been stationed in Capernaum for some time, establishing a family and building healthy relationships with the locals. Some said his relationships were too close. He used his own funds to build a synagogue, which he frequented. Cornelius was in Jerusalem during one of the festival weeks. The city swelled with the Jewish faithful who were making their annual pilgrimage to the holy city. Extra soldiers were brought in to keep the peace. Cornelius had a dual responsibility to instruct new centurions and other arrivals on the customs of the Jewish people: what to expect, what to avoid, and of what to be respectful.

“You have come to know a lot about these people. Is it born of curiosity, or do you believe in their god?” Gaius saw enthusiasm when Cornelius spoke of the Jewish faith. There was more to this man than a cultural historian.

“It is not uncommon for those posted in a region to love deeply and learn from the people they govern. Good centurions let go of bias and bigotry. If they don’t they will begin to resent their assignment and die bitter men.” Cornelius was older than Gaius, and his wisdom was evident.

“Have you rejected the beliefs of Rome?” He continued with a whisper, "Have you rejected the divinity of the Emperor?” Gaius knew full well the latter question was sensitive. Answering it in the affirmative could mean death, and Cornelius didn’t know if Gaius was truly curious or testing his loyalty.

“I have not rejected my loyalties. What I have done is come to appreciate, honor, and revere deeply the god of the Jews. You may not realize it, but these people are special to their god. I honor my traditions, but I worship with the Jews.” It was a politician’s answer.

Gaius wanted something more concrete then old parchments and prophets. How can this Centurion, a soldier of Rome, defender of her glory, believe so easily in a defeated god? “Simple words and gracious people aren’t enough to follow a god of a backward nation. There must be more to your story than you are letting on.” Seeing Cornelius’ hesitation he added, “My interest is no more than curiosity. I have no desire to advance my position by revealing your secrets.”

“I have no secrets, but I am cautious to whom I tell my story. Honor and respect are important, and those who have not seen and heard the things I have cannot fully appreciate why I believe.”

Gaius was now truly interested, and with a tilt of his head encouraged Cornelius to continue.

“I have always had an appreciation for the Jewish faith, its simplicity and purity. My faith, as you can call it, has deepened over the past year as I have encountered the teachings of a young rabbi named Jesus. Have you heard of him?”

“Yes, I got a glimpse of him when I first arrived in the Temple. He was causing quiet a commotion,” Gaius said.

“I am sure,” Cornelius continued. “His teachings are unlike any I have ever encountered. His viewpoint is fresh, and he is harshest on the religious leaders. Most of the time he travels around Galilee, occasionally making his way to Nazareth and Jerusalem. I have seen the results of some of his miracles and have had opportunities to speak with the recipients of his gracious touch. One of my servants, a young man, fell from the roof while fixing some thatch. His back broke and he was paralyzed. He was emotionally a wreck and the pain was tormenting him terribly. He is like a son to me. I had heard that Jesus was entering Capernaum, and I went directly to him.”

“I am sure that once he saw you and your soldiers he bristled at your show of authority.” Gaius knew how they were hated.

“On the contrary. I went by myself, and he was not intimidated by me in the least. You can’t imagine what it was like standing in the presence of this man. The might and glory of Rome fades in comparison to his confidence and authority. You have to understand that people have seen him calm storms and cast out demons.”

Gaius was tempted to stop Cornelius. It was sounding as if he believed this man to be greater than Rome itself!

He continued, “I approached him and said, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed,’ and Jesus had compassion. He didn’t even hesitate but said he would come and heal him. I was astonished. I thought for sure he wouldn’t give me another thought, as I am not a Jew. I felt unworthy to have him come to my house. I explained to him that I am under authority and have soldiers under mine. You know how it is. As centurions we know how to take orders and we know how to give them. Our word is law. We say go and they go. We say come and they come right away. I believed that Jesus could heal my servant with one word, and I told him so. What happened next is unconceivable. He turned to the crowd and said he hadn’t seen this kind of faith in all of Israel, and then he turned to me and said my servant was healed! I thanked him and went straight back to my house. My servant was healed at the exact moment Jesus spoke it!”

Gaius stared at Cornelius. He wasn’t sure what to make of his story, but there was no reason to doubt its veracity. He could also see that Cornelius was saddened that Gaius’ response wasn’t enthusiastic. “I’m sorry,” Gaius began, “don’t take my blank look as unbelief. I’m just not sure what to make of all this.”

“Don’t be sorry. I know how unbelievable it sounds. If I had not been there, if I had not seen it for myself, I would feel the same way. But maybe you will experience it for yourself. This is the Passover festival, and Jesus usually comes. If you can assign yourself around the Temple you might have an opportunity to hear him speak.” Cornelius wanted Gaius to believe, but knew from experience the disciplined mind of the Roman soldier. Faith was in Rome and its glory. Belief was in seeing the power of the sword. But he also knew that every man desired more than the dust and decay of war and destruction. At the heart of every soldier was peace.

Jerusalem swelled as worshippers poured into the city. Gaius had been in Palestine for three years. His interest in this yearly festival had always been minimal, but the more he heard about Jesus and learned about the Jewish faith, the more he was intrigued by their practices. So, at this year’s celebration he made sure he was stationed at the East Gate of the city. It was one of the most beautiful entrances into Jerusalem, often referred to as the Golden Gate. Each year city dwellers greeted new arrivals by waving palm branches and singing songs out of their sacred hymnbook, but this year proved more exciting than ever, as rumors of a man named Lazarus circulated throughout the countryside. He was well known in the city of Bethany and when he died the whole town mourned him, but Jesus was a good friend and, having pity on him, raised him from the dead. When people heard that Jesus was approaching they ran to the East Gate, and not only waved palms, but laid them before him in the fashion of triumphant kings. They shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!”

Jesus accepted their praise with the ease of a returning king, and this didn’t sit well with the established leadership. When Jesus entered the Temple he overturned tables and drove the moneychangers out of their seats and sent them flying with his makeshift whip, just as he had before. Immediately the chief priests and scribes questioned his authority. “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

“Yes,” Jesus answered, “have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’?” And as quickly as he entered, he turned and left. Gaius had two soldiers follow him to ensure his safety. They reported back later that he had gone to Bethany and spent the night there.

There was so much activity during the week leading up to what the Jews called Yom Kippur. It was their high holy day, when their god was supposed to forgive the nation’s sin. Since the people were to fast on their day of atonement, they spent the week eating and celebrating. The people generally ignored the soldiers’ presence, and there were few conflicts to handle, which gave Gaius time to observe and ponder this very curious event.

Servius grumbled, “I hate crowds. Why can’t these people just stay home and worship their god in private?”

“Didn’t you enjoy the festivals in Rome? They were glorious, with parades and flowers, and dancing. They were much more licentious than these Jews. I think you miss them, and that’s what depresses you.”

“Always the philosopher. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how you intently watch these people. I’m looking for malcontents, and your wondering why these people care so much about their god’s forgiveness.”

“I have to say, you impress me, Servius. You seem to be observing me as intently as I the Jews.”

Servius was a little embarrassed, “I didn’t mean anything by it, Centurion.”

Gaius laughed and gave him a little nudge. “Relax, the week’s almost over. All these people will go home, and we can go back to our usual duties.” Gaius realized how droll that sounded. Their routine consisted of preparing meals, cleaning and maintaining equipment, exercise, patrols, paperwork, and sleep. Every day was the same. At least the festival provided a diversion, and he thought it sad that it ended so soon. “Maybe we can get permission to go to Caesarea for a break. Sea ports are always more exciting.”

Gaius learned that Yom Kippur was when the Jewish god met them in the Temple. It was said that in the old days his glory rested on a special box in the Holy of Holies, and a great light shone from inside. That was long ago, and they dreamed of a day when his glory would return; they hoped their Messiah would deliver them from the Romans and reestablish their former splendor. How futile, Gaius thought. There was no glory greater than Rome and no god who could displace her. It was sad to see people run around in hopes of attaining what they had lost. It was sad, that after all these years they hoped in an empty dream. Yet, it made Gaius think. “Could Rome’s glory ever fade?”

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