Alea Iacta Est

"The die has been cast."

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus was dead. It was a cold, brutal death that none had been expecting and yet all had been dreading. A numbed, wide-eyed freedman by the name of Philip hovered over the dead man. He was a pale, yellowing man bloated slightly with the weight of the Nile, resting on the dock of the port town, Pelusium. If his cheekbones had been visible, they might have been tinted pink with the embarrassment of being tended to so immediately—so publicly. Instead, he was simply a body and Philip dare not look at where Pompeius Magus' head ought to be.

With a dampened strip from his wool tunic in hand, Philip reverently began to wash the blood from Pompeius Magnus' back. He used slow, thoughtful motions of the hand, his mind was clearly elsewhere, and his expression seemed trapped in time. He barely took notice of the wounds on his master's back—several deep, violet canyons had been formed, stretching several agonizing inches from the ends of his shoulder blades all the way to his lower back. Flies gathered around the bloated body, shaking with the sound of a rattle at Philip's every move. But Philip did not take note of the flies or the cuts or the putrid smell—only the streaks of dried red blood, only the mess he was going to clean up.

He moved reverently about the body, the only noises being the shifts of his tunic or the buzzing of the flies. With his head bowed, he paid no attention to the elegant sweeps of orange and pink which had been brushed across the sky or the impressively full clouds with their grave but respectful shadows. He moved the salty rag across the man's shoulders soothingly, almost as if he were still under his command.

"Is that your master?"

The words seemed to come from nowhere—from the clouds possibly, from beneath the dock, maybe. Philip looked up. "Sir," he said as the face of a respectable gentleman registered in his mind. The man was not all that different from the other aristocrats he had seen, a dark, wise looking face with his muscular body clothed in a tunic and red lacerna, but there was something about this man that made Philip curious, made him snap out of his reverie.

"Forgive me, sir. I am Quintus Hortensius. I am a… friend of the commander's. That is… I… fought with him in the war. Is that not the body of Pompeius Magnus?"

"It is, sir," Philip bowed his head respectively and returned to his work.

The aristocrat only stood, eyebrows furrowed. "I wonder how such a man could lose a battle even with death?"

Philip washed.

"Only by betrayal of course," the aristocrat continued seemingly for his own enjoyment. He stepped forward pointedly, as if arriving at a mark on a stage and looked out upon the river with his hand on his chin. "A truly great man never loses the battle with death on his own means. No, it is almost always someone else's fault," the man said, his voice bordering sarcasm.

Philip drew his head upwards in interest. His hands slowed. "You know the general too well, sir. For he did die of betrayal. The consul Caesar betrayed him."

The man with the wicked face turned round. He took a little too much pride in the red soldier's cloak he had slung gallantly over his shoulder as he began pacing back towards the body and at last, knelt down beside the former slave. "I know," he said. "I was there."


This is a creative story for a Latin II project. Comments and constructive criticism are appreciated! If you notice anything that is historically incorrect, please let me know. I've had limited time to complete my research. Thank you for reading!

-Faraday