Two slight acquaintances are seated in a Roman bathhouse:
Gaius Julius? Sextus Lividicus; my wife knows your wife
How is your wife?
Taken to her bed. Worn out by too much gossiping with her sister. How is your wife?
Taken to my best friend’s bed, damn him. I’m recommending to the Assembly that he be promoted to lead the army against the barbarians. I hear that the hordes are already at the gates of Ravenna
Don’t put any store in the chattering of the plebs; they will believe anything and the messengers from the front seek only to entertain the masses for a handful of sestertii
Ha. Jupiter! That’s a lovely scar you’ve got on your leg
Yes, I got that in the battle of Adrianople. Did you lose your leg in the wars?
No, I fell out of a window escaping from an irate husband
The acquaintances’ exchange is interrupted at that moment by a breathless arrival. He swivels his head, looking for a likely victim of his attentions. There is much pinching of the bridges of noses, pursing of lips and fingering of brows among the bathers in order not to catch the newcomer’s eye. Gaius Julius, however, is not disconcerted:
Ah, Covidius, come sit with us and tell us the news from the battlefront. (He turns to Sextus Lividicus) Covidius is all over town like the plague, a frequenter of the dives, a source on the machinations of thieves and the assignations of whores, and sometime informant to the Senate. Hail, Covidius, what news have you?
Hail Caesar, HaHa. Well, I was just down at the forum where they have erected a new stele in commemoration of some victory in a battle against the barbarians. All the young men are down there hoping that some of the glory rubs off on them. I mixed in with them hoping some glory would rub off on me. I had my sights on fair Crastus, but he only had eyes for Quintillus’ slave boy. It was a stab wound to the heart.
“Et tu, Brute?”