Fifteen twelvemonths had passed since the death of Augustus. Tiberius, now seventy, was still First Citizen of Rome. Germanicus and Drusus were dead. Since Drusus’ death, Tiberius had withdrawn to Capri and left the Praetorian Prefect Sejanus in charge as regent.
Romulus, the illegitimate son of Julia Major and a Gaelic trader, was now one and thirty twelvemonths old. Still as lean and hungry as Gaius Cassius Longinus had been, Romulus looked more grown up now. Still ruddy skinned, red-haired and with mismatched eyes, the left being blue and the right green, he had an air about him now that brought his noble maternal grandfather Augustus, now a member of the Roman pantheon, to mind more than dishonorable Tiberius.
As Augustus’ successor, Tiberius was a corrupt authoritarian but he was at least an able administrator that gave a majority of the Roman world little reason to complain with only the minority enduring his authoritarianism. Romulus believed there was only a matter of time until Tiberius stopped caring about the government of all that was Rome altogether.
As Romulus’ step uncle and adoptive uncle, Tiberius was less of a man to make threats just to scare Romulus anymore. Those days were long behind. The two were somewhat on good terms but every now and then things would turn bad, resulting in Romulus taking his family to his estate in Narbo Martius in Gaul to be as far away from Tiberius as possible. For the last two twelvemonths, Tiberius had been living in Capri permanently leaving Augustus’ estate in Rome to Julia Augusta, Augustus’ widow, completely.
Seven and eighty… It was a marvel and an affliction. Julia had outlived her first husband who had divorced her, she had outlived her second husband Augustus, she had outlived her second son Nero Claudius Drusus and she had outlived her grandsons Germanicus and Drusus Julius Caesar. She was ill now and so she had sent for her step-grandson Romulus, his wife Messalina, once again pregnant, and their son Conn.
Lying in her bed the old woman, her hair white as the mountain snows of far off Germania, stared at the ceiling of her bedchamber with her black eyes. By her bed sat Romulus and Messalina.
“It seems not long ago I was sitting at your bedside, Romulus,” said Julia, her voice husky and resonant. “I doubt that Claudius’ doctor Xenophon nor your Egyptian god Aton will be able to help me.”
“Perhaps praying to grandfather will make you well.” Suggested Romulus.
Julia shook her head. “No… I am dying, Romulus. This shall be my final day. I pray that I shall be deified so I might be able to join Augustus amongst the gods of Rome… I do not see Tiberius doing such a thing though.”
“Perhaps under Nero.” Suggested Messalina.
“Where is my step-great-grandson with his good Hibernian name?” asked Julia, ignoring the thought that her natural great-grandson Nero would ever do such a thing.