'Apollonides ordered me to stay back. The priests swarmed around me. In the blink of an eye, they had me out of my green robes and into white ones, so that I looked like another priest. It was all very confusing. Clouds of incense swirled around us. Apollonides hissed at me to keep quiet and pressed a very substantial bag of coins into my hands-loot from his final raid on the treasury, no doubt. If I wished to keep breathing, he said, I was to keep my mouth shut, show myself to no one, and leave Massilia on the first ship out; your son Meto would handle the arrangements.

'I stood there, dumbfounded. Meanwhile, the priests had lifted the other fellow in green to his feet. They were trying to push him toward the precipice. His arms must have been bound beneath his robes, but he still managed to put up a struggle, thrashing this way and that. I suppose he was gagged as well, because he didn't utter a sound, not even when Apollonides threw his arms around him and the two of them staggered and pitched and finally plunged over the edge.'

Davus frowned. 'But who was it? Who was the man in green?'

'Who else?' I said quietly. 'Zeno.'

Hieronymus nodded. 'It must have been. Once Apollonides decided to end his own life-and who could be surprised at that, after the shock of Cydimache's death and the shame of losing the city-he was determined to take Zeno with him. What more fitting place for both of them to meet their ends than there on the Sacrifice Rock? Because Zeno took my place, the priests agreed to spare me. It's a lucky scapegoat who has a scapegoat to take his place!

'I spent the night at the Temple of Artemis. You'd be amazed at how much food the priests still have, hoarded away. That's where the figs came from. The next morning, while everyone was gathering at the gates, I thought I'd steal into Apollonides's house and collect a few personal items from my rooms while I had the chance. I expected to find the house deserted, and it was, except for you two. You were sleeping like a child, Gordianus. I didn't dare awaken you. No one could know I was still alive, not even you.'

'Deceived yet again, for my own good,' I muttered.

'But I left you the figs!' said Hieronymus. 'It seemed the least I could do.' He sighed, stepped to the rail, and gazed back in the direction of Massilia. 'I shall never return. I've never been anywhere else. Is Rome as wonderful as everyone says?'

'Wonderful?' I asked quietly. By the time we returned, the Senate would have acted on the proposal put forward by the praetor Lepidus. When Caesar arrived, resplendent in glory; he would enter not as a mere proconsul or imperator, but as dictator of Rome, the first since Sulla.

Hieronymus put his arms around Davus and me. 'Wonderful, yes! Because when I arrive there, I shall already have two great friends!'

He grinned, happy to be alive. For his sake, I managed a halfhearted smile. Together, we three watched the waves and the gulls circling overheard. The day was bright and clear, but it seemed to me that my eyes were scarcely of more use than those of a blind man. The sunlit world around me was full of shadows. Those I thought dead had returned to life. The one I had known best in all the world, I did not know at all. The truth of a moment clearly seen could never be surely known, for everything of real importance happened inside the heads of others, where no man can see. I could not see clearly even inside myself? Was it the world that wore a mask of deceit, or was I the veiled one, unable to see beyond the veil of my own illusions?

After a while, we left the ship's stern and walked to the prow. 'Look!' cried Davus. 'Dolphins!'

Chattering like giddy children, the dolphins leaped and dove through the waves alongside the ship, like a vanguard escorting us home. Massilia and the dead past lay behind us. Rome and the uncertain future lay ahead.

Author's Note

Massilia is the Latin name for the city the founding Greeks called Massalia and which the modern French call Marseille. Our knowledge of the ancient city comes from an array of scattered, tantalizing references. From Aristotle and Cicero we learn something of the city's government; Strabo explains the hierarchy of the Timouchoi. Servius's commentary on The Aeneid cites a lost fragment of The Satyricon, which refers to the tradition of the scapegoat. Valerius Maximus relates some curious customs, such as the fact that the Massilians facilitated suicide so long as it was officially approved. From Plutarch's Life of Marius comes the tale of the vineyard fenced with the bones of slain Gauls. Lucian's Toxaris, or Friendship recites the strange tale of Cydimache, which I have freely adapted. My method has been to gather these intriguing tidbits and to assemble them around the crucial moment of Massilian history, the siege of the city by Julius Caesar in 49 B.C.

About the siege itself, our information is less scattered and more concrete, but naggingly inexact. Caesar's self-serving (and therefore not entirely reliable) The Civil War is our prime source. Lucan's epic Pharsalia vividly describes the razing of the ancient forest and the bloody sea battles, but Lucan is a poet, not a historian. Cassius Dio gives the background of the siege, and Vitruvius sketches a few details. The British historian T. Rice Holmes, in a feat of ratiocination worthy of his kinsman Sherlock, assembled all the data and put forward a credible reconstruction of events in The Roman Republic and the Founder of the Empire (1923). But as Holmes himself ruefully acknowledges, 'The history of the siege presents many difficulties and its chronology is obscure.'

Until very recently, comprehensive studies of ancient Massilia were to be found only in French, in Michel Clerc's two-volume Massalia (1927, 1929) and J.-P. Clebйrt's two-volume Provence Antique (1966, 1970). This changed in 1998 with the publication of A. Trevor Hodge's witty and astute Ancient Greek France. (Noting the city's position, before the siege, as Rome's window onto Gaul, Hodge points out that 'Massilia was an ideal centre for gathering intelligence, more or less in the way Berlin was in the old days of the Cold War.') An older but still useful volume is The Romans on the Riviera and the Rhone by W. H. Hall (1898).

Nan Robkin pointed me to the research of A. Trevor Hodge long before his book was published. Claudine Chalmers supplied me with relevant pages from the Guide de la Provence Mysterieuse. Claude Cueni linked me to images of ancient Massilia from the Musйe des Docks Romains and the Musйe d'Histoire in Marseille. Penni Kimmel read the first draft. Thanks, as always, to Rick Solomon; to my editor, Keith Kahla; and to my agent, Alan Nevins.

The fates of various historical figures in Last Seen in Massilia-including Milo, Domitius, and Trebonius (not to mention Caesar)-may yet be dealt with in future volumes of the Roma Sub Rosa. But as it seems unlikely that Gordianus will cross paths again with Gaius Verres, I will note that the notorious art connoisseur came to a bad end. Six years after the siege, still an exile in Massilia, Verres was put to death in the same round of proscriptions, ordered by Marc Antony, that proved fatal to his old nemesis, Cicero. Verres's crime? Antony coveted one of his ill- gotten works of art.

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