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Empire of Rust

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Hi guys! This is Todd! Here is my short story I have written over the past few weeks called "Empire of Rust."

Its my first short story, so have mercy with your criticism and enjoy!


Empire of RustEdit

Philippus Augustus[1], emperor of Rome, scribbled ideas for his millennial games across a small piece of parchment at his desk in his dimly lit study. The millennial games, he hoped, would finally win over the Roman people after he killed the past emperor Gordianus[2] three years earlier, whom the Romans liked more than he. Philippus was confident in his ambitious project. He was forty three years of age, young by Roman standards, and he was sure that most of the army backed his reign. Suddenly the door behind Philippus creaked open. Philippus jerked his head around, but sighed in relief after he saw that it was his most trusted adviser: Severus Quintus. “Ah, Severus, come in.” Philippus said as a smile grew across his face. “I was just writing down some ideas for my upcoming millennial games next year.” Severus smiled at Philippus and strode across the room. “I bet they are fine plans, Caesar[3].” Severus said. Severus honestly liked and respected Philippus. The new emperor had been kind enough to allow Severus to live after he learned of his position as an adviser to Gordianus. The main problem with Philippus, Severus thought, was that he just didn’t know how to handle the treasury which infuriated Severus to no end since he was deeply committed to preserving the economy. He first paid a large bribe to appease the resurgent Persians on the eastern border and then he squandered even more money on his home town of Shahba to make it one of the most decorated towns in the east, legitimizing his position as emperor, since that region had not reared an emperor up to this time. “Anyway Severus, how many lions do you think I should bring to Rome for the games, a couple thousand?” The emperor was already back to his parchment, scribbling away. After giving the emperor the traditional bow of respect, Severus peered over his shoulder studying the plans. “I think a couple hundred would be better Caesar since the lions of the east are almost extinct after so many games.” Philippus looked up at Severus. “So do you think the majority of the animals should be bears?” Philippus pondered. Severus smiled at him. “Yes Caesar.” Philippus looked at him for a few moments and then smiled. “Bears it is then.” He said as he started write a letter to the governors of the Northern provinces to send him as many bears as they could.

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Later that evening, Severus returned home to his estate in the southern part of Rome. He lived there with his wife Julia, since his son Lepidus had left home to command a legion in the army some years before. Stepping off from his personal carriage, he waited as the slaves inside opened the large doors. Stepping into the luxurious hall that welcomed all who entered the house, he walked past busts of notable descendants lining the walls and mosaics covering both the floor and ceiling. Julia came out of one the many rooms to meet Severus. “How was the Emperor today, my love?” Julia asked as she embraced her husband. “Pleasant enough. He is in a furry trying to get plans for next year’s games done.” Severus replied warmly as he stroked Julia’s brown hair. That night Severus sat upright in his bed, reading the long dead emperor Claudius[4]’s book History of Corinth (Severus could traced his family line back to Corinth). Julia was asleep by now and Severus hoped to go to sleep soon. But he still could not put off the thoughts in his head. These millennial games will be the death of us Severus thought as he placed the scroll down on the table besides his bed. The Emperor will surely realize soon that the Roman people don’t love you just because you put on great games. Severus leaned over and blew out the lamp next to his bed. I mustn’t think of it any longer. He then lay down next to Julia and went to sleep. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It is 248 and the millennial games have finally arrived. Philippus’s hard work has paid off and the people of Rome finally approve of him. Thousands of wild bears were killed along with hundreds of gladiators. The only problems with these games, the people thought, were the lack of Christians killed, but Philippus was religiously tolerant and very interested in the Christian faith. Severus enjoyed of most of the games, but not the fact that once again Philippus had spent a large chunk of the imperial treasury. Feeling secure in his position, Philippus elevated his eleven year old son, Philippus the second, to the rank of co-emperor hoping to create a dynastic line of Syrian emperors, an event unheard of in the past. This young boy was a smaller copy of his farther with the same dark skin and short dark hair. Later that year, as the emperor and his family were eating, a servant burst into the dining hall and whispered something into Philippus’s ear. “Well, bring him in.” Philippus said, and the servant ran back and opened the door. Two legionaries walked in. One by the name of Tiberius, who was a close friend of Severus, and the other by the name of Claudius, an ambitious young legionnaire working his way through the ranks of the army. After bowing to the royal family, Tiberius stated the purpose of their visit. “Caesar, we bring you the urgent news. Germanic tribes have crossed the Rhine and launched attacks across our border. In our station in Moesia the legions have rebelled because of their discontent in their small wages and have declared their commander emperor. The Goths have also crossed the Danube and are laying siege to cities in the Balkans, and the people of the eastern provinces are rising up in revolt against their governors.” The emperor remained silent for a moment, his mouth hanging open. He quickly snapped out of it, wiped the crumbs off his robe and ordered a carriage to be drawn. “There is only one thing I can do to save the lives of my family and me.” he said to Tiberius and Claudius as he rushed past them. He went to the Senate and asked of them if he could resign his position as emperor. By now the Senate had heard of all the revolts and invasions but they still pleaded with Philippus to remain emperor. One senator named Decius, who had once been a solider, gave a moving speech to Philippus naming off the reasons he should stay. Once the meeting was over, Decius went home to find his old military uniform. “Why are you getting that old thing out farther?” his eldest son Herennius asked him. “Because my son,” Decius flashed Herennius a crafty smile. “I think I should soon need it.” After hearing of all the chaos, Severus rushed to meet Philippus as he arrived at the palace from the meeting house. The two went into the emperor’s study. Shutting the door behind him, Severus looked a Philippus gravely. “Did… did you actually resign Caesar?” Philippus beamed at Severus. “No my dear friend, the senators gave me good reason why I should stay.” Severus looked puzzled. “What did they say?” Sitting down at his desk, Philippus retold the story. “They said that I am destined to rule for the fact that I have ruled while Rome celebrates its 1000th anniversary as a nation. They also suggested I send a senator by the name of Decius to the Balkans to suppress the revolt.” Severus’s heart sank on the inside. Decius is too ambitious for his own good; even his old age hasn’t stopped his drive for power he thought. Yet regardless of Severus’s objections against sending Decius to the Balkans, Philippus did it anyway. Decius was incredibly successful against both the tribes and the usurpers and Rome quickly planned a large triumph for him. Speeches were prepared, animals were bought to be sacrificed, and Philippus planned a large banquet. But, one afternoon horrible news came to Severus. “They have declared Decius EMPEROR?!” He exclaimed as the servant from the imperial palace told him the news. Severus quickly left to find Philippus; he had to somehow persuade Philippus to resign to save the lives of his family. When Severus arrived at the palace, he was surprised to find Tiberius there with a legion of soldiers all standing at base of step. The soldiers were grim faced and the whole area seemed eerily quiet. Tiberius’s face brightened when he saw Severus “Ah Severus, long time no see.” As Severus got out of his carriage Tiberius walked up and embraced him. “Uh...Hello Tiberius.” Severus quickly pushed him away. “What is the meaning of all this?” Tiberius sighed, and a look of solemnity went across his face. “The emperor has decided to stand and fight. He left this morning to go to northern Italy; Decius’s legions are already on the move. We are about to leave, so I must go.” Tiberius quickly mounted a horse brought to him and led the legion down the main street of Rome. Severus looked on and silently said a word to gods for their protection.

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Several days later, a group of legions marched into Rome. At the head of the large force was Decius; riding behind him was a sullen Tiberius. Severus saw all this though a window in his house standing with Julia, for their house was near the entrance of the city. “Philippus is dead.” Severus said suddenly. He knew that Decius would not have been merciful to the younger emperor. The rest of the day was one of bloodshed and confusion. Philippus the second was killed by the Praetorian Guard in the palace as he tried to find his mother. Decius killed off any advisers who had spoken against him and for this Severus feared his life. But thankfully Tiberius intervened on the behalf, and because Decius admired the young commander he allowed Severus to live. It was also on this day that Severus found out exactly what had happened to Philippus: Tiberius had no choice but to order his murder for as the forces of Decius launched attacks on the loyalist forces in the north; Philippus’s showed little to no military prowess. Severus, though he understood Tiberius’s reasons, broke off all communication with his former friend. Severus quickly realized that the trust that the past two emperors showed him was not as evident in Decius, as he asked Severus little to no advice and took on more cruel advisers. One act that Decius took that went back on everything Philippus believed in was the Christians. Shortly after taking power he ordered the mass arrests and executions of this growing faith. The people of Rome had long loathed the Christians and were only too happy to see them mauled by lions and burned at the stake. “They are taking young children off the streets and throwing them to the wild beasts! Why did the gods bestow upon us such a bloodthirsty tyrant?” Severus said to his wife one day. “I don’t know, dear husband.” Julia embraced him comfortingly. “But this surely cannot last long.” Julia was surprisingly right. After 2 years of bloodshed and cruelty, Decius was killed along with his son Herrenius as they tried to confront Germanic tribes on the Rhine. Far away in the Balkans, one of Decius’s most acknowledged generals by the name of Trebonnus Gallus was declared emperor. Now Gallus might have been a good emperor, Severus thought years later, if he hadn’t always been on the defense. For Rome’s many enemies realized its weakness and went on the attack. The Germans, exuberated over there achievement of defeating and killing Decius, launched more and more devastating attacks across the Rhine into Gaul. The resurgent Persians laid waste to Syria and Arabia, and civil unrest plagued many cites of the empire. Yet Gallus wasn’t as cruel and ignorant as his predecessor. He honestly listened to Severus’s advice on the rare visits he made to Rome, and he ended the large persecutions of the Christians. As a sign of kindness, he elevated Decius’s surviving son Hostilianus, a youth of twenty-one, as co-emperor, but Hostilianus died later that year in 251 as a devastating plague swept across the empire. Julia herself was struck by this plague, and Severus unfourntionaly had to send her away to his summer villa in southern Italy for recovery. It pained him as he now lived by completely by himself except for his servants a cooks. In 253, Gallus was killed by murderous troops in Terni[5] and he had no sons to succeed him, or any other legitimate family member. Chaos now reigned supreme. A general named Aemelian rushed into northern Italy from Gaul and proclaimed himself to be emperor. But General Valerian attacked Aemelian’s forces from the Balkans. They fought for three months all across Italy before Valerian defeated and killed Aemelian. Though Valerian was of noble blood, which was more than you could say for either Gallus or Aemelian, he had quite a few problems facing his rule. Italy was ravaged by the recent civil war, the Persians were still storming across Syria and Asia Minor, and rumors spread that the Goths were planning a large invasion in the east. In the face of these troubles, Valerian declared his son Gallienus co-emperor giving him control of the west while Valerian took the east. In all this madness, Severus now found himself completely out of his position as adviser since both emperors were always fighting, even more so than the time of Gallus. He planned to live with Julia in their estate in the south, but she had passed away from the lingering effects of the plague. Ordered to stay in Rome during the short reign of Aemelian, who wanted Severus’s support, Severus saw little of his wife in her dying months. He went into a state of near madness; he came to loath the state, as he blamed it for the death of his wife, for most doctors had been pulled from Italy to care for the thousands of wounded soldiers on the eastern front. Severus left Rome to live in his estate where his beloved Julia had passed away. For nearly 7 years Severus lived a life of solitude. He did not need a job for he had plenty of money bestowed upon him from both Philippus and Gallus for his time as their adviser. His days were filled with gloom and he reflected on the days of Rome’s greatness. He wondered what the golden age of Rome had been like during the reigns of the some of the most famous emperors such as Augustus, Tiberius, Trajan and Septimus. What would those great men do at a time like this when war ravaged the land and corruption plagued the government? Then in 260 the news reached him that Valerian had been captured and allegedly put to death by the Persians. Gallienus now assumed control of the entire empire. Severus thanked the gods for the revenge of his dear Julia, but his demeanor was still one of despair. Finally one day, in 264, a letter arrived for Severus from Gallienus requesting his advice one the recent revolts that had broken out in Gaul. Severus at first wanted to burn the letter, but he started to read anyway. Hello, Severus Quintus, I am writing this letter to ask you to kindly come back to your former role as adviser to the emperor. I was looking at past writings from Philippus, Decius, and Gallus. And though Decius does not put you into good light (He said you were a soft-hearted rat who cared too much for the Christians) Philippus and Gallus do talk about you kindly. Recently, unrest as swept across Gaul and now a general by the name of Postumus has declared himself emperor of the so called “Gallic Empire”. So now I implore you, for the sake of the past emperors mistakes please help me so I can turn this “Empire of Rust” back into an “Empire of Gold”.

When Severus finished the letter, he pondered. He realized that he had wasted almost a decade of his life brooding over troubles and blaming them on the state though it wasn’t the state’s fault. He may be old, but he was still wise, or so he liked to believe. Severus returned to his life of an adviser and under his guidance Gallienus won many a great victories against Persians and Germans, both militarily and diplomatically. Rome prospered and the treasury returned to its “pre-Philippus” state. Gaul did end up breaking away in 265 but Severus dissuaded Gallienus from taking any military action as it would have caused the deaths of thousands of troops who were needed to fight back invasions from the east. And it was so that an empire of rust turned back to an empire of gold. Since the murder of Gallienus, emperors have come along who have learned from the mistakes of the past. No longer would they throw lavish games or underestimate Rome’s many enemies. As for Severus, he lived out the rest of his days in Rome, eventually become mayor of the grand city. He lived with his grandchildren and told them of a time when the world was rocked by civil wars and invasions but reminded them that if you are steadfast, all will turn out right in the end.




[1] Known today as Philip the Arab. [2] Known today as Gordian the third, he reigned from 238 to 244. [3] “Caesar” was one of the Imperial titles of the Roman emperors. [4] Claudius was the fourth emperor of Rome and reigned from 41 to 54 A.D. [5] Ternia is a city in southern Italy

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