The Eternal City

Prologue

Dr. Mary Witherspoon brushed a lock of her chestnut brown hair over her right ear as she peered at the cargo manifest. A team from the National Museum of Rome had discovered a previously undiscovered section of ancient Rome that had been built and paved over the centuries. Several structures were still largely intact and many pieces were discovered that completely overwhelmed the local staff. They had contacted the British Museum for assistance. Forty eight crates with over 300 newly found ancient Roman artifacts had been shipped to the Department of Greece and Rome at the British Museum by Italian authorities to assist with their identification and certification of their authenticity. As one of the chief Professor’s it fell to Witherspoon to log the pieces in and determine which sub departmental teams were best suited to examine the pieces.

She removed her glasses to rub at the bridge of her nose. While she relished the opportunity to be the first to look at the once in a lifetime treasure trove in front of her, by the looks of the manifest it was mostly nick knacks and common items. It certainly would speak to how the ancient people of Rome lived but Witherspoon longed for something unique, something that gave a unique insight a find the likes of Kings Tut’s tomb, or deciphering the Rosetta stone.

“Well, back to work.” She muttered to herself as she removed the top of the nearest crate. Inside were four cases specially designed for the transport of fragile artifacts. The seals also limit the amount of oxygen and erosion from the air after being sealed for so many centuries. Witherspoon took these cases and brought them into the examination room and proceeded to suit up. The manifest listed the items as a box, two vases, and some figurines.

After assembling the pieces along the examination table she marvel at their condition. The vases were still intact and had much of their original artwork visible but it was the box that held her attention. It was made of metal and stone and yet was not terribly heavy. She was able to make out a pair of hinges on one of the longer sides indicating that it was intended to open yet she had yet to figure out how. The tableau of figures suggested to her that they were a collection of the Roman pantheon as if acting as guardians to the contents inside.

“SNAP!” one of her fingers must have triggered something for the lid cracked open just a little bit. She sat the box back down and gingerly opened the lid to peer inside. Sitting on top was a figurine that depicted five individuals. It was of unusual craftsmanship as items this small usually did not have the level of detail of the sculptures and busts that were common of the era, yet this small piece did. However this belonged to knew a very skilled craftsman and likely was quite affluent. Setting the figurine aside she found a medallion with a red cross intersected with a “P” it was laced one both sides by a leather straps and some beads, many of them missing. She knew the symbol was a reference to the early Christians but was unfamiliar with this particular usage of the symbol. Curious, the use of Christian symbols inside a box that had the Roman pantheon on it did not make sense. Who did these belong to? She wondered. Finally the last item she carefully removed from the box.

This was what she had been hoping to find. Several fragile pages were bound together in a folio. The pages were crinkly but seemed to be written on sturdier material then papyrus or paper. The writing was tiny and compact as if for personal use and not for any official capacity. The condition of the material and tiny writing made it difficult to read and would require a linguist expert on ancient Latin. Yet, she wanted an idea of what it was, who wrote it, what was the subject, who was the intended audience? All these questions rattled in her head as she attempted to put together the first sentence.

“I, Claudius Drusus Germanicus Maximus This-that-and-the-other who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and associates as Drusus the Herald,” am now about to write this tragic history of the fall of the Eternal City starting from the height of Pax Romana when a coterie erupts into the Necropolis and continuing year by year until we reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the end of the siege that we suddenly found ourselves caught in whirlwind of deceit and treachery.”

“Dear Lord”, she thought. “It’s a Diary!”

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