Cicero and chalcedony pendant

One chorea away from total doom. Vain are the nundines of works for Scevola, in vain are all honoraria and oratorios, in vain is the time consumed when on the day of my big case I cannot pronounce a single word, not a sound can I manage to breath out. Instead

I am being constricted, crushed and chocked, and by fury possessed.

For what stirred all these troubles, for what sin of mine are the Gods punishing me! My legs are weak and my hands do tremble. I must have forgotten all my knowledge for my head is empty. Like a hole, Marcus Tullius Cicero said to himself. A young advocate, Cicero faces his first important case while roaming through the streets of Rome. He was nearly struck by a dual carriage driven by an arrogant patrician, but didn’t even notice.



The brilliant young student of the stern teacher, Scevola, showed courage by taking the case nobody wanted, a case that easily consumes your reputation and dignity, maybe more: in dark times like these, an unwary one can meet a knife in the shadows. The case was patricide: Sextus Roscius allegedly killed his own father, a hideous crime unmatched by any. The main prosecutor is the protégé of consul Sulae, which further diminished Cicero’s chance for success. But Cicero decided to defend the son despite his teachers and friends advice, for he believed differently. 

He even might have succeeded, though nobody believed he could, had a sinister force not possessed him. The demon of Pluto lurked from the dark passages, and now he had possessed Cicero, leaving him wandering the streets in madness. Cicero watches merchants, haggling and cursing, listens to women shouting to their children, mindless as himself, but liberated from all the troubles of this world. All he sees while watching these common people is their undeserved and unjustified happiness, careless and free from any challenge or commitment.








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There are fine silks from China, spices from India, amphoras full off fragrant wine from Gaulle and oil from Sicily changing hands, and a denarius here and there, buying everything but courage and dignity. Easy! thought Cicero at last. No knowledge or speeches, just pure existence deprived of trouble and fear. Just plain happiness. And he, he is lighter and lighter, air headed, with thoughts floating around, not remembering a thing he wanted to say. He even seems to have forgotten all Twelve Tables from the Law he learned at the very beginning of his law education, along with every edict and statute. The words so fluent to him until now, vanish, masterfully playing hide and seek, nowhere to be found. Cicero is tortured by the ancient trouble that has haunted many before him – fear.

Time passes and the hour approaches in which he departs to the Magna Forum, which shall become the place of his doom and failure. He shall be laughed at and mocked severely. Better to drink some poison than to embarrass himself. But not even for that had he the courage or the time. He only had enough to crawl to the Forum, with the appearance of a beaten dog, trembling lips, wearing smell and sweat even though the Ides of March had just passed.



And just as he almost reached the Forum somebody took his hand. The touch is warm and tender though the hand roughened by labour, or age, or labour and age. He looks down the hand, to the body, and at last to the smile that crowns the old lady’s face.  Without any beauty in her rough, old face, she still radiates a noble disposition, with unusually large, bright eyes set against her late years. This smile prevented Cicero from breaking free from her grasp. “I am not buying anything,” he said. “I am not selling anything either child,” replied the old lady in a voice that resembled the lullabies we were put to sleep with as children in our mothers arms. “I am giving.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero looks at her stunned asking “who can afford to give anything nowadays. And what can you possibly give me when it does not seem you have enough for yourself.”  He regrets his brusqueness at once.

She doesn’t mind. “It is not about how much you posses but what can you give away. And I hold the thing you need.”

Cicero goes mute. He doubts, but does not wish to offend. He misses the words, the one thing he never missed, even now here on the streets.  Her smile seems to be growing and shining. Silently she hands him a big blue stoned necklace. With hesitation Cicero takes it in his palm. He discovers the stone is milky blue, mysterious but beautiful. Whilst thinking politely thanking the old lady for the undoubtedly precious gift but declining, something happened to him. The grip he woke up with that choked him all day had loosened unexpectedly and words and thoughts flood back to him. He can remember, and all the fear dissipates, leaving no lasting scars. There is room again for all the knowledge. He looks with astonishment at the old lady who is still smiling.

On that day Cicero defended Sextus Roscius. The Forum echoed with his thunderous voice while he spoke the words to soon sail into the memory of history, and revealed all the false accusations. His words directed to Sula are timeless “The higher we are placed, the more humbly we should walk." And  "The wise are instructed by reason, average minds by experience, the stupid by necessity, and the brute by instinct." He invoked Sextus to remember his father with pride, the father he did not kill “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living." So Marcus Tullius Ciceron has risen.

But he never understood who the old lady on the street was, and how she knew that was what he needed most. He often searched for her, went back to the market, looking at that unbearably lightness of happiness. But he never saw her again. He never parted with his blue chalcedony necklace.  He wore it always even though he never needed it again. Prior to his oratorium he always took her off and watched her milky blue nuance, as riddling and mysterious as the paths of life.