the teachers of our youth.

Dio was attached to the Academic school. His mentor was Antiochus of Ascalon, who in a few years would become the head of the Academy; Dio was one of the great philosopher's leading proteges. In my ignorance I once asked Dio where the Academy was, and he laughed, explaining that while the name originated from a specific site — a grove near Athens where Plato taught-it applied nowadays not to any par-ticular place or building, but to a discipline, a school of thought. The Academy transcended borders; kings might be its patrons, but they had no hegemony over it. The Academy transcended language (though of course all great works of philosophy, including those of the Academics, are written in Greek). The Academy embraced all men, and yet belonged to none. How could it be otherwise with an institution dedicated to discovering fundamental truths?

How does a man know what he knows? How can he be sure of his own perceptions, let alone those of others? Do the gods exist? Can their existence be proven? What is their form and their nature, and how can men discern their will? How can we determine right and wrong? Can right action lead to an evil result, or wrong action to a good outcome?

To a young Roman, barely twenty, in an exotic, teeming metropolis like Alexandria, these were heady questions. Dio had studied them all, and his quest for knowledge was a profound inspiration to me. Dio was hardly more than ten years my senior, but to me he seemed infinitely wise and worldly. In his presence I felt quite out of my depth, and I was immensely flattered that he would take the time and effort to explain his ideas to me. Sitting on the steps of the library while his slaves shaded us with parasols, we would discuss the differences between intellect and sensation, range the senses in order of reliability, and consider the specific ways that men depend upon logic, smell, taste, sight, hearing and touch to make sense of the world.

Thirty years had passed. Dio had changed, of course. He had seemed old to me then, but now he truly was old. The mane of dark hair had turned to silver. His belly had grown big and his skin had grown loose and wrinkled. But his broad back was unstooped. Unused to having his arms covered, he pulled up the sleeves of his stola to reveal a pair of muscular forearms as brown and weathered as his hands. He looked as healthy as myself, and given his size and robustness, he was probably stronger.

You'd be a hard man to forget,

I had told him. Now, as he implored me to help him stay alive,

I almost said,

You look like you'd be a hard man to kill.

Instead, after a considerable pause, I changed the subject. 'What I find surprising, Teacher, is that you should remember me after all these years. I was your pupil only in the most casual way, and my time in Alexandria was relatively brief. After I left, I heard that your mentor Antiochus succeeded Philo as head of the Academy; your life must have become very busy after that, conversing with kings, playing host to diplomats, advising the great and powerful. How curious, that you should remember making the acquaintance of a footloose young Roman who liked to loiter on the library steps, eavesdropping on the discourses of his elders and occasionally daring to converse with them.'

'You were something more than that,' Dio said. 'You say that you would be a poor Finder if you could not deduce the identity of a visitor like myself. Well then, what sort of philosopher would I be, if I could not recognize and remember a kindred spirit when I met one?'

'You flatter me, Teacher.'

'I most certainly do not. I never flatter anyone, not even kings. Not even King Ptolemy! Which is one reason I find myself in this terrible state.' He smiled weakly, but in his eyes I saw the haunted look of a man oppressed by constant fear. He stood and began to pace nervously around the small room, hugging his arms to his chest and shaking his head. Trygonion sat with folded hands and watched him with a curious expression, content to be silent.

'Do you remember the things we used to talk about on the library steps, Gordianus?'

'Only bits and pieces, I'm afraid. But I remember your eloquence when you spoke of perception and truth, of how the teachings of Plato and the Stoics had been clarified rather than refuted by the Academy-'

'Is that what you remember? How strange! That's not at all what I recall of our conversations.'

'But what else was there, except talk of philosophy?'

Dio shook his head. 'I don't remember talking of philosophy with you, though I suppose I must have. All those abstract fancies and high-minded ramblings-how pompous I must have seemed to you!'

'Not at all — '

'No, what I remember are the stories you told, Gordianus.' 'What stories?'

'About your adventures out in the great world! About your long, roundabout journey from Rome to Egypt, and your visits to the Seven

Wonders along the way, and your exploits in Alexandria. How dull my own life seemed by comparison. How old you made me feel, as if life had passed me by! While my colleagues and I lounged under parasols, debating good and evil, you were out in the streets, encountering good and evil in the flesh, taking part in the whirling drama of life and death. Who was I to speak of discerning truth from falsehood, when sitting beside me on the steps of the library was the young Roman who had solved the riddle of the cat murdered in the Rhakotis district, which caused half the populace of the city to riot?'

'You remember that story?' I said, amazed.

'I have never forgotten it! Even now I can close my eyes and hear you telling the tale while philosophers and shopkeepers gathered around to listen in awe.'

'The killing of a mere cat caused the city to riot?' Trygonion turned a heavy-lidded, dubious gaze at each of us in turn.

'You obviously have never been to Alexandria, where cats are gods,' said Dio curtly. 'Only a few years ago a similar incident occurred. The culprit was a Roman, or so they said. But given the political climate in Alexandria these days, any pretext will do to stir up the mob to chase a Roman through the streets, cat killer or not.' He stopped his pacing and took a halting breath, then another. 'Do you think we could retire to another room? The brazier is too hot. The air grows stuffy.'

'I could call Belbo to unshutter another window,' I suggested.

'No, no, perhaps we could step outside for a moment?'

'As you like.'

I led them into the garden. Trygonion made a show of shivering and hugging himself, flapping the folds of his toga in an undignified, decidedly un-Roman fashion. Dio studied the fishpond with an abstracted air, then gazed up at the darkening sky, took several deep breaths and resumed his pacing, which brought him to a startled halt before the statue of Minerva. The virgin goddess held an upright spear in one hand and clutched a shield in the other. An owl perched on her shoulder and a snake coiled at her feet. The whole statue was painted in such lifelike color that the goddess seemed to breathe and gaze down on us from beneath the visor of her crested helmet.

'Magnificent,' he whispered. Trygonion, loyal to the Great Mother, gave the goddess of wisdom only a cursory glance.

I stepped alongside Dio and gazed up at the statue's familiar face. 'The only female in the place who never talks back to me. But then, she never seems to listen to me, either.'

'She must have cost a small fortune.'

'Probably, though I can't tell you the cost. I gained her by inheritance, more or less, like the rest of this house. The tale of how that came to pass would fill a book.'*

Dio surveyed the portico that surrounded the garden, clearly impressed. 'Those multicolored tiles above the doorways-'

'Fired by artisans in Arretium. So my late benefactor Lucius Claudius once told me, when I was merely a visitor here.'

'And all these finely carved columns-'

'Salvaged and brought up with great difficulty, so I was told, from an old villa at Baiae, as was the statue of Minerva. All are of Greek design and workmanship. Lucius Claudius had impeccable taste and con-siderable resources.'

'And now all this is yours? You've done well for yourself, Gordianus. Very well, indeed. When they said that you lived in a fine house here on the Palatine, I wondered if it could be the same man who'd led a wanderer's life in Alexandria, living from hand to mouth.'

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