Bloggus Septimius. 2 - His Downfall.

Poor, daydreaming Bloggus was awoken from his distant reveries by the sharp slap of sandal leather descending the staircase that approached his dismal, subterranean prison - and the steely, metalic ringing of weaponry and iron clad tunics that heralded the arrival of the daily food.

Always precisely timed to a clatter of hooves and flickers of light caused by the slowly accelerating wheels passing by the window up above as the bakery cart resumed its long morning round of deliveries - the lock in the heavy, oak door would be turned and the whole of its ill-fitting, studded mass would be shouldered into scraping and grating across the cobbled floor - to contemptuous shouts of "By the Emperor's pleasure, he's decided to feed you today - move away from the door!"

At which the imprisoned would drag their shackles across the floor and form a ragged, restless and hungry line against the wall opposite to the door.
The wall alongside which Bloggus currently reclines - soon to be pressed upon, brushed against by foul smelling backsides and a few feculent thighs.

A wickerwork basket would then be slid clumsily across the uneven floor, with just enough force to clear the doorway itself and spill its contents about.
The door would finally be slammed shut and locked again, but generally this went unnoticed as starvation had transformed an already sorry crowd into a pack of animals, fighting and clawing at the ground and at each other, to secure as much for themselves as was possible. Stuffing great chunks of the bread, together with stems from the straw that was scattered over the floor, in between their yellowed and decaying teeth - with snorts, coughs and choking on greed.
Bread - ironically - that had been baked by Servius, Bloggus's father, that very morning - having risen long before dawn.

The memories of which flooded in to poor Bloggus's mind every day at this hour, cruelly increasing the torment of his captivity.
The other prisoners knew of this, so Bloggus himself rarely had to join the unseemly scrum for food. One of his cell mates would begrudgingly hurl one of the loaves, or at least a large portion of a loaf, directly at Bloggus - there is some honour among thieves.

Why was he here, our hero? What was his crime?

This being a time of what was loosely termed peace (ignoring the murderous treatment received by insurgent tribes bordering the vast swathes of the Empire) the Roman Army was put to service on all manner of infrastructural work. Perhaps supervising the construction of state buildings, or the compilation of maps (a thankless task in itself, as the extent of the Empire was forever expanding, requiring that these painstaking and detailed documents had to be redrawn far too often.)

And of course, another of the regular peacetime duties was the building of roads, extending the growing network that was usually augmented by the Legions while at war, as a means to get themselves and their equipment to a new battle site. It is a skill that the Romans are justly celebrated for, but it was in connection with the building of roads that led to Bloggus's first assignment as Centurion - and which led to his downfall.

The current phase of building, now concluded by the completion of a coastal road all the way South to Napoli, was the latest proud offering of its architect Marcus Claudius Caecus. Before the grand tour which would officially bring this latest phase into recognition, by deserving the blessings of the Emperor himself, Caecus had a brainwave.

Now it is easy today to scorn the simplicity of what for us is rather obvious and everyday, but in common with all manner of things, they had to be invented at some time or other. Marcus Claudius Caecus had invented the signpost.

Despite your undoubted disappointment in this mundane fact, it nevertheless did involve much logistics and organisation to put his idea into practice. Not only upon the roads and junctions that formed this new phase of building, but upon roads and junctions previously created, that lay within a limited radius of the capital itself - which hitherto, had been unsigned and required a great deal of guesswork or previous knowledge from the traveller.

Bloggus Septimius was elated with pride as he heard news of his election to be in charge of this task. He personally designed the look of the new signpost and studied the suitability of many combinations of materials to be used in its construction.

Accompanied by twenty or so men from his Century, equipped with carts, materials, tools, food and wine for man, food and water for horses, he set off on his maiden commission, certain that upon completion, success would redeem not only his self esteem but his sagging reputation, both amongst his peers and within his family. He was in sole charge - and his word now carried the authority of the Emperor - with a determination to set an example of strength, wisdom and intelligence - to make his mark as a leader at the head of these men, a portion of his new command for which he had now been promoted to the rank of Primus Pilus.

Poor Bloggus, always ahead of his time - always out of synchronisation with ideas. He had consulted no one, he had thought that it would please the Emperor, by appealing to his sense of pride.
After all, it was a commonly used phrase - All Roads Lead to Rome. But the chaos that ensued on the grand tour, the utter embarrassment brought upon Marcus Claudius Caecus by finding themselves hopelessly lost and bewildered by the plethora of roadsigns - each one of them proclaiming "To Rome" but pointing in every conceivable direction - the confusion wraught upon that multitude of Senators, Statesmen, the Emperor's household, the cavalry, the carriages and Tiberius Caesar Augustus himself - ensured that they found a scapegoat in our poor hero.
When Rome was eventually rediscovered, Bloggus was immediately escorted to the jail.

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