Prologue: A Darkened Line
They said that my father was a great man.
They said that he was just, brave, noble in battle, in peace, in administration, and in diplomacy. They said that he broke nations in twain, humbled kings, satraps, princes, before him. And to all of them he acted with the utmost nobility.
All I knew was his cruelty, his frowning, his displeasure. I was never good enough, never wise enough, never bloody Roman enough for the old bastard.
What in the name of Zeus in the Heavens does Roman mean? To be the member of a gasping, dying client state of the Phoenician Empire? To be the member of a state that had lost battle after battle to the forces of King Hannibal? What in the name of the Zeus does being a Roman mean, here in the wilds of Mikra Asia?
And when I threw these arguments in my father's face, he would shake his head. No, he would say, no. It means none of those things, he would say. It means being above the mire that surrounds you, to be honorable, to be noble, to give glory to the Republic that once made nations quake in fear of its name.
And I could never measure up that standard, half-Greek that I was, it would seem. Though he never said as much, that's what I knew: I was a mistake, a punishment sent for one night of ill-thought-out passion. Never mind that my mother was the younger sister of Ptolemaios II Megas, he of the fallen armies on the plains of the Delta. Never mind that I was spawned of the bloodlines of kings older than even the name of my father's beloved nation!
Gnaeus Flavius Decurius, strategos of Lydia and of Ionia, of Pamphylia and Caria, servant of the fallen king Ptolemy the Second of Egypt, was a hard father.
But what do all the long years of his tutelage matter, compared to the last fight? Shouted words, a woman's screams, a diatribe against which I could muster no defense...
And a flight into the night, with only the possessions I carried on my back to come with me.
Thus it has come that Ptolemy Flavius Decurius, descendant of the kings of old and of the purest Roman blood, commands three hundred Cretan and Ionian mercenaries in the army of self-proclaimed king Amyntas Anamixandrid in his daring rebellion against the buckling Seleucid Empire...
But this tale can wait for later. Lasthenes beckons; we set out to terrorize the foe once more, appearing and then disappearing into the night.
I stand, pull on my leather cuirass, and slide down my helmet.