Monday, October 19, 2015

Why do some become quiet?

Coming from the city and through a sparse, wooded river valley near the village of Echternach in Luxembourg, there is a ruin of a Roman Villa. It was dramatic in its scale and beauty at the height of the Empire, but then lost for almost 1,500 years.

When I first drove by the ruins, I wondered what the owners of that villa were thinking about 400AD (if I am allowed to use that term) of all the goings on in Rome. How often did they discuss what was going on in the Imperial capital with their neighbors who owned the villas in Borg, Bollendorf and others in their little corner on the edge of the Empire - and what, if anything, they should do.

Perhaps they heard of rumors of the Legions leaving Briton, but doubted that would happen and perhaps comforted themselves that, if they did leave, the legions would simply be reassigned to reinforce Gallia Belgica.

From across the Rhenus, they heard rumors of some restiveness on the part of the Franks - but they are good trading partners and really have no reason to challenge Rome again.

I am sure that, as time went by - they became exhausted keeping track with the drama in Rome as bad Emperors replaced worse Emperors selected from the same families or just the General of the Month Club. Each new Provincial Governor that cycled in and out only asked for more taxes and asked fewer questions on what was needed by the people.

Instead of regular correspondence with their neighbors on the topic of Roman politics and the dysfunctional Empire, they just invested more time riding their property, improving their orchards, talking with their shepherds about the upcoming lambing season and probably, after each harvest or return from market, took a few gold coins to hide away in their little hoard over the crest of the hill to the west ... well ... just in case.

On good days, they would take a deep breath and look around at their blessings as they have that day, with an edge of unease in the quiet. They would kiss their children on the top of their head and wonder, how much longer will this hold on? What more could they do than they are already doing? But mostly, their circle of concern pulls towards the center, the topics they worry about narrow, and the Glory of Rome starts to seem like something they were taught as a little kid and, the old legionnaire thought, perhaps something he was trying to be a part of in his decades long service.

Was it ever really there, or was it just a little fable for children that was sold and retold among mutually foolish young men?

Who knows. All he knows this morning is that they still have not found those five oxen that went missing three days ago. That is his mission today, and that is good enough.

And in the evening, as has been more frequent as of late, there is no messenger to bring news - and from the villa, no news or inquiry that needs to go out.

Just the quiet of the evening and only a hint of distant drums, mostly drowned out by the babbling brook behind the garden where he takes his evening drink, and the constant ringing in his ears - besides his villa, the most lasting vestige of his years of service to the Empire.

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