The Fall of the Roman Empire
by: Gn. Dionysius Draco Invictus
DRAMATIS PERSONAE

ROM : Romulus Augustulus
BAR : Barbaria, Romulus' mother
PAU : Paulus, Romulus' uncle
AVA : Avarici, Barbaria's servant
GAL : Gallus, Romulus' teacher
ZEN : Zeno, Emperor of the east
ODO : Odovacer, German warlord
ORE : Orestes, Romulus' father


PROLOGOS

ROM: I am Romulus Augustus, last emperor of the Roman Empire of the west. My mother, Barbaria, has just died of old age. I am now a true orphan, fatherless as well as motherless, in a land that I was never destined to rule. All I retain is this monastry, a sad museum of my culture and language. This burial reminds me of the loss of my father, in the days the Roman Empire was already cursed; its nobility aloof and arrogant, its military rampaging and pillaging, and its commoners wallowing in their own filth.

EPISODION I

ROM: Mother, what is happening?
BAR: Woe! Terrible things, son, terrible things I cannot speak of.
ROM: But what? Please tell me. We have been here since yesterday, and all I can see outside is the town square in the sunlight.
BAR: Have faith in God, my child.
ROM: Where is father? I haven't seen him since he left to fight the barbarians last week..
BAR: Neither have I. Neither have I. Come in my arms.
ROM: You are crying.
BAR: No, no, I'm not.

(Gallus knocks on the door and enters.)

BAR: What is it, Gallus? What bad news and merciless gods bring you here?
GAL: I apologize threefold, mistress. I was not stopped by war nor weather to reach your chambers – as fast as I could – with my message, distressing as it may be.
BAR: Woe! God curse this bright day, bringing nothing but doom. Romulus, go play.
ROM: But why?
GAL: Mistress, it was the new king's expressive wish that your son would hear the news, as well, cursed as it may be.
BAR: And who are you to listen to a barbarian such as Odovacer? Only a barbarian would obey a command from such a despicable creature without nobility.
GAL: I do not obey his command. It was the wish of your husband.
BAR: Oh tell me, what did he say? Speak!
GAL: Very well. In the last battle, under the guidance of your God, Orestes was defeated, and brought to Odovacer's quarters. I was taken prisoner as well, and witnessed a short war trial, which sentenced the commander to death. The execution happened at Odovacer's own hand, quick and swiftly, with a determined hand and a solid blade. Before he died, he prayed for the well being of his family, and asked Odovacer to fulfill his last wish, which was releasing me, and letting his son live in peace. He granted Orestes' wish. I came here as soon as possible, on a fine stallion given to me by one of Odovacer's men, and accompanied by Orestes' brother Paulus, a man of noble blood such as yourself.
BAR: Oh God! Do not cry, my child, do not cry.
ROM: But you are crying, dear mother. Tell me Gallus, where is Odovacer?
BAR: No, my son! Do not vow revenge upon a man of such insolence and brutality. You, too, will die!
GAL: He is marching towards Ravenna, emperor. A few troops loyal to you, lead by Paulus, have been positioned on the walls and at the city gates. But traitors are everywhere, even in this small palace.
BAR: Why did you not defend him? No, you choose to escape and save your own worthless life rather than to die in place of the emperor's father, as should have been your fate!
GAL: I had no other choice.
BAR: You had..
GAL: It were your husband's orders.
BAR: I don't believe you.
GAL: Then don't, if you wish to do so.
BAR: Go away!

(Exit Gallus)


(Enter Avaricia)

AVA: My humblest apologies for entering, mistress.
BAR: There is no need to apologize; you are born of true Roman blood, so enter and speak up. After hearing of such atrocities, the news you have for me can't be worse.
AVA: Your brother-in-law, Paulus, has arrived.
BAR: Can't he visit us at a better time?
AVA: He pleaded me to tell you it was an urgent matter that pressed him, and that he needed to see the emperor.
BAR: Well, then, tell him we shall see him in a few moments.
AVA: I will, your Highness.

(Avaricia bows. Exit Avaricia)

BAR: Oh Romulus, my little Romulus, how can fate be so cruel?
ROM: I don't understand, mother.
BAR: Neither do I. I live in a house, surrounded by greedy servants, and now Paulus is coming to claim your throne as his own, while the barbarians are at the gates, eager to pillage our city and rob us of your lives and our dignity. Godless people, these who desacrate our Empire.
ROM: Mustn't we flee the city then, if there is no way to go?
BAR: But where to? You have a courageous heart, my child, but also a foolish one. You cannot resist against that is what's beyond your grasp.

STASIMON I
Times when dark clouds engulf the empire

And strange warlords claim their throne

Only the strong survive the tides of time

Perpetuated even in death itself



Allegiances and loyalties are unreliable

Shifting like time strikes down itschildren

Randomly and uncertainly to live today

Few men resist this wave



Greed and lust rule the hearts of men

As even the Gods dwell in the shadows

Nobility lives unsuspecting, unexpected

Evil masks in purity
EPISODION II

(Romulus, Barbaria and Paulus in the garden)

PAU: My emperor, I trust you have already learnt the horrible news from Gallus?
BAR: The barbarian! If it were not such a dark and needy time, I would have him executed for his treason.
PAU: Mistress, I think you are overjudging your servant. He did what he could.
ROM: What is it that you wanted to talk about, O Paulus?
PAU: An urgent and stressing matter, my emperor. Since the defeat of your father, Orestes, at the hands of Odovacer, his army has been marching towards this city. Despite Ravenna being heavily fortified, and the loyalty of the common people to the memory of Orestes and the Empire, we will not be able to defend our city from Odovacer's armies. Therefore, I think it would be wise to sail to Constantinopolis and give the surviving, loyal legions a break. We are severely outnumbered.
BAR: Outnumbered as we may be, is a wolf whose young are in danger, and ill-fed, not the greatest danger herself?
PAU: Not if the jackals and vultures are already killing its young, and chasing the mother.
BAR: We are left with more than one person to defend this city.
PAU: But we have only a handful of legions and loyal citizens left, against dozens of rogue squadrons and packs of mercenaries, united under Odovacer's banner.
ROM: Mother, I do indeed think it would be best to flee these parts and seek refuge at emperor Zeno's court.
BAR: Zeno is a self-satisfied man, passive and aging, an incompetent ruler. There is still much you need to learn, my child.
ROM: I would rather risk an escape, and to save the lives of those loyal to us, rather than sit and wait here in our luxurious palace until Odovacer comes to claim my throne.
BAR: I'm afraid you have been under too much influence by that Gaul lately. I forbid you to see him again – not only is he a coward and a worshipper of false gods, he is also corrupting the imperial youth.
PAU: If I may, sister-in-law, Gallus has in the past been extremely loyal to our family, and many times risked his life to help Orestes or me in battle against the barbarian legions. I can assure you that he is a man with a noble spirit, what makes up for his lack in noble blood.
BAR: Many times evil comes under the guise of truth and loyalty, or do people commit evil acts even without being aware of them.
PAU: This is most certainly true, but I beg you to make a decision regarding the city of Ravenna, and your own safety.

(enter Avaricia)

BAR: Avaricia! You come at the right moment. It's time for Romulus to go to sleep.
ROM: I can decide when to sleep for myself, mother.
BAR: You are not yet an adult.
ROM: By three months.
BAR: It's all the same, three months or three years. Go with Avaricia.

(exeunt Avaricia and Romulus)

PAU: Are you not being a little too harsh on Romulus, sister? After all, he will soon be reaching the legal age, and he is the emperor of Rome.
BAR: Paulus, I did not have my son sent off to bed to discuss educational matters with you, a childless general.
PAU: A childless general I am, but a general nevertheless. Therefore, I beg you to listen to my advice and to the opinion of Romulus.
BAR: I do not intend to leave Ravenna to then hands of Odovacer and his barbarian legions.
PAU: The eventual decision is not yours to take.
BAR: Nor yours either, if I may remark so. What good would your advice be, o brother, when you have lost battle after battle, and have even lost the companionship and life of your very brother, my beloved husband Orestes?
PAU: We were overwhelmed by the numbers of Odovacer's troops. No force could have stood up against them, not even in the days of Traianus. That is why I would consider it a better idea to escape this city – with more people than I originally intended, if you would feel that particular need – and seek refuge at Zeno's court. Odovacer does not have naval units as of yet.
BAR: But there are enough pirates who would be willing to sell us for a few pieces of gold.
PAU: Better to take that risk than to wait for Odovacer to come and take us prisoners, or have us executed. Even as we speak, his armies may be marching towards the imperial throne. I plead you to carefully think about this, but I must go now and take care of pressing military matters.
BAR: Allright. I will see you again tomorrow. May God protect you, brother-in-law.
PAU: Be blessed.

(Exit Paulus)

(Enter Avaricia)

AVA: Romulus is sleeping now, mistress.
BAR: Thank you, Avaricia. Oh woe! What time is this to live in? My husband has just suffered a violent death at the hands of a barbarian, profane king, a false heathen is corrupting my child and my brother-in-law prefers a cowardly escape above an honourable defence of Rome's heart. This is too much for a woman to take.
AVA: Is there anything I can do for you, mistress?
BAR: You're doing all you can, and I wouldn't dare to ask more from you. I draw strength from God, and I know you do, too.
AVA: I pray for the safety and well-being of your family every day.
BAR: So do I. Tell me, Avaricia, for how long has your family been christian?
AVA: I don't know for sure, good mistress, but it has been our home religion for a very long time. If I am not mistaken, my ancestors practised their faith even in the times of Domitianus. If I may be so free as to ask you something, why do you want to know this? You seem to be pondering over an important issue.
BAR: Yes, you are quite right, my loyal servant. If Odovacer manages to defeat Paulus' troops – which I deem him capable of – the first place the warlord will try to occupy is the palace, for obvious reasons. I have heard stories about catacombs here in Ravenna, and I know that your family has been living in this city for generations. That is why I asked for your religious history.
AVA: I see. If it may be of any help, I do happen to know a few ancient catacombs, well hidden, and not used anymore. Odovacer will not easily find you there, even if the city is sacked.
BAR: Tomorrow, or perhaps the day after tomorrow, that German may be at the gates. I then want you to lead Romulus and me to those catacombs, until the battle is over, or, in case of a defeat for us, until Odovacer has left Ravenna with his men. I am going to sleep now. I trust I will see you at the ceremony for my husband tomorrow morning?
AVA: You can count on me, mistress.

(exeunt Avaricia et Barbaria)

STASIMON II
From far across the snowy Alps

The army of a foreign king

Iuppiter's thunder rules the sky

An angry fist at his ancient people



The clash of times and Gods

Is nothing but a whimper

When the crowns of old

Linger in their shallow darkness



Noble blood flows injustly

The weak fester on their death

Ravenna is ruled by doubt

Silence is Iuppiter's vengeance
EPISODION III

(Romulus Augustulus and Barbaria are in the catacombs. Above them are the sounds of battle, distantly, but growing louder as the end of the third episodion nears)

ROM: Are you sure, mother, that we took the right decision to hide in these catacombs of Avaricia's ancestors?
BAR: I am sure, and I am happy that you listened to my wise counsel. Right now Paulus is taking up the defence of our city. I am convinced that the Roman legions will rise victoriously from battle.
ROM: Then why, o mother, are we hiding in these shadows, dressed in dark cloaks, beneath the wine cellars of a cheap taberna?
BAR: You can never be too certain in life. It's full of surprises.
ROM: I should have taken another decision. You are hiding here with me because you are afraid.

(Silence)

BAR: No, I'm not.
ROM: Yes, you are. I can see your hands trembling, and I see your eyes moving quickly about, like a rabbit sitting in the middle of the forest, listening if there are any predators around. You are afraid that Paulus will face defeat.
BAR: That's enough.
ROM: Don't command me.
BAR: I am your mother!
ROM: I am emperor of Rome!

(Silence)

BAR: Only because your father willed it so.
ROM: Don't you dare step on my father's honour. At least he accomplished something he can be proud of, and died like a man on the battlefield, while you only taught me how to despise my people, and to run away like a weakling at the merest hint of danger.
BAR: Oh who filled your head with all that nonsense? I should have had that Gallus executed a long time ago.
ROM: Gallus merely showed me what I already knew myself.
BAR: He is not even a Roman.
ROM: And are you? Are we? Romans have become the dirt and spit of the world in this corner of God-forsaken Italia! Oh, that brave Paulus. He will die as well, and soon Odovacer will be running through the city with his renegade hordes of rapists and barbarians.
BAR: Please, Romulus, that's enough.

(Silence. Sobbing)

ROM: Don't weep, mother, don't weep. Did the Gods curse us after all, when we left them to rule the God of Christ?
BAR: I don't know. I know nothing.
ROM: Neither do I. All we can do is wait. Do you hear the sounds of ballistae approaching? I swear I can hear the grunts and battlecries of men far above our heads.
BAR: It's too terrible to think of. We must win.
ROM: We are in an ancient house of our Lord. Have faith. We are also close to the dark realm of old Pluto. Have faith, mother.
BAR: Why are you so calm, my son?
ROM: Because now I realise that I have nothing left to lose. The day that my father made me emperor, I had lost it all already, but I only see it now.
BAR: Don't think that way, Romulus. Paulus will surely win. He must.
ROM: He might.
BAR: Who taught you these cursed doubts, my son?
ROM: Gallus, the philosopher.
BAR: Oh, him again! He will surely betray us, from one barbarian to another.
ROM: He won't do that.
BAR: I may not know as much as I would like to concede in public, son, but trust me that this Gallus is a depraved creature. You yourself witnessed how he entered our tower room and told the story about your father's death without visible emotion, how he openly worshipped his own Gods and flirted with dangerous ideas from a past age – Stoicism – and how he tried to impose these views on you. I don't know why Orestes ever hired him as your teacher.
ROM: He is not what you think he is, mother. Have faith.
BAR: Yes. Faith in God. I wish I could see the skies. It must be a bright day up there.
ROM: Without doubt.
BAR: The sounds are coming closer.

(Silence. Battle sounds are indeed coming closer)

ROM: They are fighting in the city.
BAR: I hope that our brave citizens will defend themselves from these troops.
ROM: Is that someone coming down the stairs?
BAR: Perhaps we have won.
ROM: Who's there?

(Enter Avaricia)

AVA: It is I, Avaricia.
BAR: Oh, Avaricia! Tell me we have won. You are smiling. We have surely won.
AVA: Don't be too sure, mistress.

(Enter Odovacer and twenty soldiers)

STASIMON III
The sun has set over the lands

The sky has sunken underneath

Ravenna has been plundered

By the horde of thousand men



Light now shines from the east

A messenger attains the capital

Bearer of dreaded news

The burden of Stoic fate



Ever so light across the sea

Night falls in the west

The general has been slain

The emperor overthrown
EPILOGOS

(Zeno's throne room. Enter Gallus)

GAL: A good day to you and your people, my Lord.
ZEN: I bid you welcome, messenger from the west.
GAL: I come before you with bad news, my Lord.
ZEN: That, I had expected long before you had come. But do tell me.
GAL: The German warlord named Odovacer recently defeated the western army, and killed their general, Orestes, in battle. He then marched towards Ravenna.
ZEN: Was this Orestes not the father of the young emperor, Romulus?
GAL: Indeed, my Lord, he was. The boy and his mother hid in the deep catacombs of the city, waiting until the battle was over. The battle, brutal and vicious, could never have been won, not even by the Gods themselves. Upon entering the city, Odovacer himself slew Paulus Orestes' brother in a noble duel. The rest of the remaining forces were killed or captured, as was I.
ZEN: What happened to the emperor?
GAL: He and his mother, hiding in the catacombs under the city, were betrayed by one of their own servants. Odovacer captured both, but spared their lives for the grief he had caused them.
ZEN: And the traitor?
GAL: She got her due reward.
ZEN: Which was?
GAL: Death.

(Zeno laughs)

GAL: With your permission, Lord, I would like to continue my message.
ZEN: Of course.
GAL: When both the emperor and his mother had been captured, Odovacer sent for me, and dispatched me and a band of old servants on a ship to bring you this message, and deliver you the imperial scepter and crown. The Empire of the West has formally ceased to exist, my Lord.
ZEN: I accept Odovacer's symbolic gesture. In Rome, the corruption had been expanding from the inside as well as the outside. May God, and your own Gods, forbid this from happening to sunny Byzantium.
GAL: Yes, my Lord. May it live for another thousand years.
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