FIRST BOOK OF SAMUEL -CHAPTER SIX
Greece: Athens 367 AD
It was a hot and busy day when the ship on which Samuel had been sailing finally made landfall at the port city of Athens. Stepping ashore Samuel was struck by the number of people who were going about their business in the harbor. Some slaves were unloading grain from vessels; others were loading amphoras filled with wine and olive oil. The mighty Roman empires did not run on love of empire alone; it ran on the filled bellies of its soldiers.
Samuel looked up and for a moment was over whelmed by the shear beauty of what he saw. Before him rose one of the most awe inspiring sights ever to grace the face of the world; the acropolis with its tall columns reaching to the sky. The sound of bells and gongs as the priests and priestess called the faithful of Zeus to prayer.
This was a land of legend, the land that had inspired the stories of Helen of Odysseus and of Agamemnon. How mighty Zeus would descend and spend a night of fervent love making with a shepherdess and leave in the early morning. It was the land where later a son would be born to the shepherdess and he would turn out to be one of the strongest men in all the world. It was also a land of jealous gods who played tricks on each other using unsuspecting mortals as pawns in their games of spite. And then of course there was the ambrosia of the gods; that wonderful liquid which could restore life and make one immortal if one happened to drink it.
Greece, once a mighty confederation of city states, was now nothing more then a large city under the rule of the mighty Roman Empire. This was the city faithful to the goddess Athena into which Samuel stepped that hot September morning in 367AD. His first priority was to find one Greek wine merchant by the name of Cladavarious, whom he had previously done some small business with. If Cladavarious was dead Samuel would then try to find his son or grandson. Samuel was still trying to get used to the novelty of being so long-lived as he moved the through the crowded streets. He realized that he would have to be careful not to rouse suspicion in this regard. He had made one or two mistakes in the past that had almost lead to his exposure. Now he realized that caution must be his watchword when it came to dealing with short lived mortals.
He entered the large city market place and was overwhelmed by the vast number of commodities available here. In one corner were the stalls of the olive oil merchants, on an embankment the stands of the sheep and cattle sellers, in the center of the great market place was the slave stand where slaves were hauled up onto the sellers block while the slave seller began his bidding war. Here we have a fine young man from the regions of Arabia, healthy, strong arms and legs, good teeth, not unpleasant in features. Come citizens what am I bid? Do I here 5 Drachmas? Come do I hear six? This is a fine young man who could keep a lovely lady happy at night. Am I bid 7? The people standing around bid. The young Arab eventually sold to a lascivious woman in her forties, who Samuel would later find out had a reputation for cruelty. Samuel passed on, coming at last to the row of stalls belonging to the wine sellers. Walking slowly he occasionally asked if any one knew the wine seller Cladavarious. He was met with shakes of the head. No one like that here, was the response until he came upon a rather tall Greek who was picking meat from his teeth with a silver tooth pick. Sorry to disturb you said Samuel I am looking for the wine merchant Cladavarious do you know him? Why I know who he was? said the man. Oh is he dead? asked Samuel. Yes he has gone, my poor dear father, he is gone ten years. But tell me stranger, what business have you with him? I knew him once in Rome said Samuel. He sold wines, I bought wine he continued.
You must have been very young in the trade then to know my father said the man smiling. I was said Samuel cautiously. My father owned an Inn. Your father visited us often said Samuel. Oh well then you will want to do your business with me said the man. I am Demetrius, son of Cladavarious, wine merchant to the Roman Empire at large and to you in particular, and your name is Samuel Ben Ezra. At your service sir said Samuel. How may I serve you today Samuel Ben Ezra? asked Demetrius. I am new to your fine city and was wondering where I might find a place to start an inn. Something small, you understand nothing to imposing, you catch my meaning I am sure said Samuel. Indeed I do sir said Demetrius if you have not found a place to stay I offer my house as your home until you have found your feet so to say. Wait a moment while I set things in order here, then we can go home. Calling to a friend who worked for him, Demetrius told the man to take care of business because something had come up, and to make dammed sure that nothing went missing or by Zeus some one would pay. Thus saying, Demetrius the Greek, led our friend Samuel away to his home upon the hill over looking the Acropolis.
Greece the Ageine Sea 367 AD
Demetrious the son of Cladavarious, the Greek was quite a man of property, having inherited the wine farm of his father with the wine shop. Later, when he married, he inherited through his wife the property of his father in law, a prosperous olive oil merchant, thus he was able to buy the house on the hill a short distance from the Acropolis. The view from the villa was spectacular, for it overlooked the Aegean Sea. One could look far out in to the bay and see ships plying to and fro as they came and went bringing goods to the city and leaving the city once more, with their wooden bellies filled with the wines and oil produced by Demetrius and other merchants like him. Samuel was impressed with the way in which this young man did business. Everything had its proper place in the scheme of things. Demetrius was a hard man on servants who tried to steal from him or failed to do their duty.
The villa was well ordered; tall columns graced the entrance and statues of men and women at sporting activities adorned the various rooms. Demetrius led his new friend Samuel across a large room, which seemed to be the place the family spent their evenings, to a small porch which overlooked the bay below. Calling for wine, cheese and bread, Demetrius made his guest comfortable. As they ate the meal, they watched the activity in the bay below. The sounds of the city were dulled by the great height of the building. Occasionally a small boy, Demetrius son Samuel assumed would come out and stand next to the chair on which Demetrious sat. On these occasions, Demetrious would break a small piece of bread or cheese off his plate and hand it to the child who would then hurry off eating the food. Samuel thought if that child continues to eat like that he will be a very fat young man. The thought was dismissed by something that Demetrious said. Pardon me friend but I did not hear what you said, my thoughts were on another matter. Pray continue said Samuel. I was saying that the Christians seem to be making great gains on the people of our fair Greece. Why there are so few who now worship Zeus and the other gods it is frightening that a religion can make such an impact. It is a new religion, only a few hundred years old. Now that the Emperor has declared it the religion of the state it makes it so much more difficult for the older religions. I remember when been a Christian was a crime now it is an accepted religion. What is the world coming to? I remember my father used to tell us that as a young boy he watched as Christians were shot with arrows because of their beliefs, but now that sort of thing is long passed. Samuel wondered what Demetrius would say if he knew that the man he was sharing food with had seen the founder of the religion. That still worried him; that he Samuel had seen Jesus die a criminals death on a cross, on a rubbish dump outside the city of Jerusalem. Dont you think our fair city one of the wonders of this world continued Demetrious with the temples and the Acropolis gracing our hill? Indeed it is a fair city replied Samuel, who was for a moment reminded of the splendor of Jerusalem which now laid in ruins, the home to foxes and their young. Ah, the splendor of Jerusalem was of a simple kind; no trashy statues of idols but a city dedicated to the One God JHWH. I see you are tired my friend I should have shown you to a room so that you could have slept. How foolish of me said Demetrius, rising, come friend Samuel, let me take you to a room where you can rest. Once you have rested, we can continue our conversation.
Samuel slept for a few hours rising at sunset to be greeted by Demetrius and his family sitting down to the last meal of the day. Samuel was invited to join them. Demetrius introduced Samuel to his wife Irene and to the four children who sat around a low table. Once the meal was over Demetrius once more led Samuel to the porch where they once more resumed the seats on two low couches. They continued to talk on various matters. Now Athena goddess of wisdom, she is worthy of our worship said Demetrious but you my friend you have not said who you worship I perceive that you are a Jew but you do not observe those things common to Jews. You eat pork yet it is forbidden to you? What kind of a Jew are you then friend Samuel? asked Demetrius. There was an uncomfortable moment of silence before Samuel pointed out the lights of some vessel gracing the Aegean. Thereafter the conversation continued on other matters.
Ah, friend Demetrious, the age when I was a practicing Jew is long passed. I lost my faith in an earlier age so as you see me today I travel the world today faithless said Samuel. There you have my secret it is out laughed Samuel. Demetrious opened and closed his mouth in disbelief, a man with out faith, a man that neither served a god. What a strange man thought Demetrious, as he refilled his wine goblet. The two men talked long into the night. It appeared to Samuel that Demetrious was like most Greeks, fond of debating, reasoning, coming together on various subjects. Demetrious talked on many subjects which interested Samuel. Indeed being around the Greek was a lesson in itself. Listening, Samuel filed away facts that were both of interest and of importance. Learning to listen to men as they spoke had served Samuel well in the past. He allowed Demetrius to talk, occasionally asking a question, or sometimes making a sympathetic noise to move the conversation forward.
Finally Demetrius rose from his couch and said friend Samuel it has been a long day but now it is time for Morphus calls on all men and now he a waits me so I bid you good night.
Samuel and Demetrius were having a light breakfast of figs and milk. They were discussing Samuels idea of opening an inn. Demetrious was saying you must have a garden with a bit of a view a place to put a statue of one or two of the gods when their attention was distracted by a young man of about eighteen entering the house. Greetings father said the young man in the direction of Demetrius. The young man was handsome well built with a body of a god.
Ah Theopolis my boy, come here a moment. I want you to meet a new friend of mine, Samuel ben Ezra, a non believing Jew said Demetrius. Theopolis turned to Samuel as if noticing him for the first time. Hello I am Theo. So you are a Jew are you sir? Well I have never met a Jew before but I have heard a few things. Can you tell me if they are true sir? asked the young man. It depends on what you have heard young man said Samuel. Oh you know the usual thing one hears about the mutilation said Theopolis. Oh they are all true. Believe me when I say that it has never stopped me from performing continued Samuel, the men laughed at this joke at Samuels expense. Well I guess since you say they are true I will have to take your word said Theopolis. Like most Greeks he was surprised that men could disfigure their bodies by cutting it. To Theo, this was the worst thing one could do to ones body. He, like most Greeks believed in the absolute beauty of the body.
Have you been training son? asked Demetrious. Yes Papa I have and training very hard. I haven’t had a drop of wine across my lips in weeks said the young man, pouring himself a full mug of milk. And so it should be. You only have a few weeks to go before you will have to set out for the Olympiad so you had better not start drinking wine now. You know we are all depending on you to win.
Did I tell you Samuel that Theo is taking part in the Olympic Games? It is a great honor for our family and for Athens if he wins. Demetrious said this placing his hand on the younger mans shoulder and smiling with pride. I have heard of the Olympic Games but I have not yet been to the games. Tell me do many people go to the games? asked Samuel. Do many people go to the games said Theo jokingly oh only the whole of Greece. Oh I did not know that the whole nation went. Well maybe this year I will go. Maybe I will see you win for your city. Do you get any prize for taking part? asked Samuel. Not really, it is for the glory of Athens that he will take part; a great honor for our family
Athens 367AD Preparation for a feast
Samuel watched from the terrace as the young man trained. It was obvious that Demetrious had gone to great expense to arrange the best sparring partners and trainers for Theopolis’ Olympic bid. The young man had been training hard for some time and now took every new exertion with ease, his breath coming easily as he went over exercises which he had practiced before. Demetrious stood next to Samuel and smiled Well friend Samuel a great honor awaits us if my son wins for Athens. I am sure that the goddess will favor one of our city’s sons.
Are there not others from Athens that are competing? asked Samuel. Yes there are but no one stands as much of a chance as my boy said Demetrious. A proud father indeed thought Samuel. Have you decided yet what you will do? asked Demetrious about your inn I mean? Yes I had thought if it is not too much trouble to you if I stayed a while longer and look around for a nice place on the hill, but first I would like to see the Olympics and watch Theopolis make you proud. It would be a pleasure my friend said the wine merchant maybe we could do some business at the Olympics. There are always stalls and that sort of thing,for people need to eat and drink. We could make quite a bit of money there. You do the food and I will do the wines. People at the games love to spend their drachmas said Demetrious, rubbing his hands together. I think you might be on to something there friend Demetrious. Tell me, have you been to many of the games? asked Samuel. I have been to about ten of the games over the years, first as a young child, later as competitor and more recently as a spectator. Do you and the whole family go and watch the games? asked Samuel. Oh we all go said Demetrious, but married woman are not allowed to watch the games, it is a tradition he ended.
Theopolis finished his practicing and came up the marble stairs to where his father and Samuel were standing. Pouring a vessel of pomegranate juice, he threw the towel he had been using to wipe away the sweat and oil on the floor. Looking at his father he said So is everything arranged for tonights feast? Almost said Demetrious, there are still a few things to do. Now that you are finished I will get the slaves to start roasting the sheep. That should attract the neighbors. I am sure their noses are very sharp. The smell of roasting meat should bring half the hill down to our house he said smiling. Sometimes Samuel did not quite know what to make of this young man. He seemed at times to have a certain insolence and arrogance in him; a disrespect for his hard working father, all of there thing did not recommend the young man to Samuel yet at the same time he had a sharp wit and a sense of humor. One could not help but like the young man.
Now if you will excuse me friend Samuel I have much to do. Make yourself comfortable. If you like, try the baths. They are very good. Theopolis take our friend down the street to the bath house and dont let that rogue Odysseus charge you too much for the use of the private rooms. All right father your command and I obey said the young man.
The music played softly in the background. The slaves had lit the torches and lamps shortly before the arrival of the guests. The aroma of roasting sheep filled the air as the guests filed in, the sounds of their voices carried to all corners of the villa. Some guests greeted each other like long lost friends. Serving girls moved in between the guests with jugs of wine refilling glasses with the cool chilled wine. In the kitchen an amphora broke. For a moment angry voices could be heard, and then the sound of the party getting under way once more drowned the sound of domestic upheaval.
Demetrius like a good host stood at the gate welcoming his guests. A patrol of soldiers passed by, stopping for a moment at the gate while Demetrious had a pitcher of wine brought for them. The commander, a legionnaire of the IVX brigade was well known round Athens and a keen follower of the games. So citizen you think your son stands a good chance of winning the olive branch? he asked. If the gods favor us there we will win. But Theo he is a good boy. He will win. I have invested a lot in his training. I even had a German wrestler brought here to wrestle against him to bring him up to standard. You should have seen the German a great bear of a man. The man smelled like Hades but we soon convinced him to wash. Well my Theo watched and learned and finally bested the man said Demetrious. The Legionnaire looked over to where his men were standing. They had almost finished their wine. He called for them to hurry up and not waste time drinking any more wine. Once they had drunk, the patrol reformed the legionnaires, thanking Demetrius for his kindness before marching off at the head of his band of brother soldiers.
Theopolis was having a great time standing with a group of the younger guests joking and talking. There were a number of hopefuls who were also taking part in the games who had been invited thus the younger men tended to stick together while the older guests spoke of their days of glory when it had been their turn to run or race for the olive branch.
Samuel found himself in the company of a man from Tyrnisia; a strange man who loved his food. The festivities had hardly begun before he started looking for food to eat. Samuel was led to understand that he was one of Demetrius late father-in-laws business associates.
So you are a Jew said the man. I knew a Jew once; very sharp, took me for a song made a lot of money between the two of us before he left me high and dry. Ah but I cannot hold that against you now can I said the man. No you can not said Samuel, who shortly thereafter moved off into the crowd of growing guests. The man disgusted Samuel and he did not want to be around some one who had a grievance against Jews or even an imagined one. He had seen things turn ugly before in those types of confrontations and he did not fancy himself a willing victim. Even though he was the guest of Demetrious things could turn ugly and he did not want to spoil the evening for his new found friend.
As the evening wore on the guests began to move into the banqueting hall. Trestle tables had been brought in and couches were placed next to the walls of the hall where guests sat and ate in the roman style. The tables seemed to be groaning under the weight of the vast array of food that was placed on them. Platters of hot steaming vegetables, silver plates of roasted lamb lay succulent in gravy, the aroma filling the hall. There were also bowls of fresh fruit from all corners of the known world. Thee were dishes of garlic flavored meat, cheeses from the hills of Greece Onion salads and figs preserved in wine from Demetrius’ own cellar. Various breads and pomegranate wines were brought in and the feast began in earnest. The sounds of voices were a little muted by the act of consuming the great feast. As they ate, the people spoke and joked. Later Demetrius rose from the table and on a signal the musicians struck up a chord. The drums began to beat, the lute players playing a feverishly fast tune. Demetrious began to dance soon he was joined by other men. As the dance continued, the shadows from the dancing men cast weird and wonderful images against the walls.
During the first dance Theo sat watching. When the second dance began he joined his father. When the dance had ended the men returned to the table to refresh their drinking vessels. When everybody was seated once again Demetrius stood up and addressed his guests.
Friends tonight we feast in long preparation for the great games which we will shortly be setting out for. I want you to know that I am proud of my son Theopolis. Stand up Theopolis let the people see you. This young man with others will compete for the olive branch and for the glory of Athens. Join me in toasting their very good health and success at Olympia. Come friends for the glory of Athens let us drink! so saying he dropped some of the liquid from his drinking vessel on the ground A libation for the gods he cried to which the guests roared their approval.
In all this Samuel was an observer, little realizing that only a few short years the Olympic Games would be suspended by the Emperor, who would proclaim them pagan and against the spirit of the new state religion, Christianity which was already knocking at the door of Greece. The baby who had been born in Samuels stable had really started things off in a new direction. But until such time the world would continue to enjoy the games that had been played for a thousand-years in a secluded valley in Greece.
Trip to the Olympic Games 367
Demetrius embraced his son saying as he did so Theo my boy you go and do us proud. I will not see you again until you race for Athens. Remember son that we all want you to win. you will do us all proud. May mighty Zeus and glorious Apollo bless you and may the great goddess Athena give you wisdom to outwit your opponents thus saying the older man released his son. They were standing at the cross roads that leads to Olympia. For a moment they stood looking at each other, the emotion of the moment overwhelming them. There were tears in the older mans eyes. The younger man looked once more at his father before joining the crowd of gathered athletes who were on their way to the athletes camp. Demetrious and Samuel would continue on to the secluded valley where they would camp with thousands of others who had come to watch the games. Getting this far had been quite something, having left Athens sailing across the Aegean Sea to the small port of Delphi. They had set out traveling up river until they had come to the conflux of the two great rivers, the departure point of the athletes from the rest of the population who had come to view the games.
Demetrious turned and set out with a hurried step. Come friend Samuel we must reach the camp before nightfall and there is still quite a way to go said Demetrious. Samuel took up the pace walking alongside the Greek although he was heavy for his age he moved with an agility, which surprised Samuel.
We must reach the camp in time to make offerings to the gods said Demetrious, to no one in particular. The crowd of Athenians around him sensed his urgency and continued on at their hurried pace. Coming to a small pathway they spread out to file through the small gap. On passing through the gap, one was able to observe the valley below into which thousands of people had already filled. Below them lay tents of branches cut from the forests and woods. Here every four years the entire Greek world came together to celebrate a battle between the gods which had happened eons before. Now the battle was in the field of sport Greek freeman against freeman competing for the glory of their cities.
As Samuel looked down he was struck by the fact that for such a small valley there were apparently hundreds of thousands of people from every corner of the known world. The Greek colonies from Asia Minor, from near and far they had come to compete in these games. The only other time he had seen some thing like this was many centuries earlier when the Hebrews had filed through the gates of Jerusalem to celebrate Passover at the temple. For a moment Samuel experienced a pang of heartache thinking now of the destroyed temple. The moment passed, Samuel turned to hear Demetrius speaking to one of his slaves; Comacroplis if you drop that I will beat you! Now hurry up and follow me. he said as they once more set out. The slave Comacroplis hurried after his master with a large jug on his shoulder.
Shortly before dusk when their party had reached the valley floor, having found a place for their booths they settled down. Demetrious sought out Samuel. Finding him sitting under a tree asked, Friend Samuel you must come and see we are about to sacrifice to the gods. It is to thank them for bringing us thus far and to ask for favor for the games of tomorrow please join us. Samuel rose and followed the Greek to a place near the center of the camp where a large number of people had gathered.
A priest of the temple of Zeus stood on a podium before an alter holding a sharp stone knife which had most probably been passed down for thousands of years from priest to priest while behind him stood two eunuchs holding a pig which had been brought for slaughter. Hear oh servants of mighty Zeus! We are gathered here to give thanks and ask favor. Thus saying, the two eunuchs lay the pig on the altar, thereafter the priest used the stone knife to slit the pigs throat. Calling for libations the priest poured a healthy amount of wine over the dying pig before setting fire to the wood beneath the altar. The crowd roared its approval.
It was the third day of the games. As usual the spectators had risen at dawn and had rushed off to the stadium. Today was going to be a big day in the Grecian sporting calendar. The sacred flame was to be lit. On the first day Samuel and Demetrius had risen and hurried to the stadium with thousands of other spectators for the ceremonies, which were to follow. The monitors and trainees from the nearby city of Elis had marched in first waving their staffs of office proudly followed by the participants grouped together according to their cities of origin. The crowd roared its approval as there own citys athletes marched by. When Theopolis at the head of the Athenian athletes drew opposite the stand where the supporters of Athens sat there was a loud cheering and clapping of hands. Once the march passed had finished. The crowed settled down. For the next part of the ceremony hawkers moved among the crowd selling their wares. A lot of good natured ribbing went on between the supporters of the various cities. The spectators from Corinth sat next to the supporters of Athens so occasionally there would be shouts that Corinthian athletes would win the gold olive branch. To which there would be boos and shouts of derision from the supporters of Athens.
Now the crowd grew quiet as the priests of mighty Zeus marched into the arena. Walking head and shoulders above the other priests the high priest Alpheus walked with a pride known only to those who serve Zeus. A gong was struck as he mounted the steps in front of the temple of Zeus; moving to the altar he gave a signal. The other priests began to chant rhythmically Honor and praise to mighty Zeus from whom these games were given to man. Honor to the great god of Greece. Thus they continued until suddenly they stopped, the two eunuchs led out a large wild boar which they lifted with the helping hands of several other priests on to the podium. The feet of the offering was quickly bound. The wind blew softly across the plains of Greece. Samuel brushed aside a stray hair. He was reminded that centuries earlier the Holy temple of Jerusalem had been desecrated by the offering of pigs to the self-same deity Zeus. But today it was here in Greece not ancient Jerusalem, which stood no more, now nothing but a ruin.
The high priest lifted the stone knife with both hands and showed it to the people before bringing it down and cutting the throat of the boar. The crowd roared with approval as the gong was once more struck. Thereafter the athletes stepped forward, each one standing in the blood of the boar making the sacred oath to Zeus that they would not cheat that they would abide by the rules of the competition that they were ritually clean and ready to take part in the games. The ceremonies continued for the rest of the day until nightfall when the spectators returned to their camp.
The second day had started much the same as the first day only this time the games had begun in earnest. Athletes taking part in the races had paraded before the crowd stripping naked and taking their place on the starting line. Heavily oiled youths stood ready to run for the glory of their cities, their muscular bodies displayed for all the world to see; the ideal of Greek civilization the human form at its best, with a blast from a trumpet they began to run. The first race was twice the length of the stadium as the runners ran past their cities spectators one could hear the name of the favorite athlete from their city been chanted. In the first race Theopolis did not take part but a younger athlete by the name of Appolous did. As he ran past the spectators from Athens the name of Appolous was chanted and shouted loudly. The race ended with the runner from Corinth winning. A little disappointed, Demetrius said to Samuel ah well what could we expect, Theo was not running. In the next even Theopolis did run. It was a longer race, four laps of the stadium. Theo paced himself well allowing other runners to run ahead, tiring themselves out, about half way through the race Theo began to make his move. This was not missed by his father who became even more animated, shouting That’s my boy! Thats my Theo, come on watch him run! What a beautiful boy! he cried. The crowds around him took up the chant of Theopolis rhythmically as if spurring the runner on to greater efforts. When the race finally ended with Theopolis winning the crowds from Athens erupted in joyous shouts of The glory of Zeus for Athens! other shouted The gods favored Theopolis of Athens! Glory to Athens!
As Samuel observed all of this, it was hard not to get caught up in the moment, to shout praise for the young man, to be glad for his friend Demetrius but Samuel could not help the feeling that the athlete would one day do his father a great wrong.
On the third day with the sun shining and the birds singing in the sacred grove, the crowds took their places. The races continued; there were chariot races which took up most of the morning. At midday the crowds grew silent as if waiting for something new to happen. In this they were not disappointed. In the center of the arena was the great disk into which the most pure virgin olive oil had been poured. The magistrate of the city of Elis rose and moved to the steps which lead to the great disk. Here he waited it was not long before an athlete came running bearing a torch which he handed to the magistrate. A priest from the temple of Apollo intoned a prayer, speeches were made by the magistrate on the glory of the games thus when he ended he began climbing the stairs. On reaching the top he touched the torch to the disk which caught the flame from the torch and burst into flames the whole stadium erupted in shouts of joy that the sacred flame had been lit. The flame of Grecian civilization burned brightly; the flame that had given the world people like Homer, Plato, and Alexander the Great burning brightly under Roman rule. It would not be long before this civilization would be faced by a danger, which would change it radically from worshipping a Parthenon of demi-gods to worshiping one god.
The games were over. The runners had run their course. The last ceremony of the games was the handing out of the golden laurels to the winners of each race. The magistrate of Elis once more climbed to the podium and began by thanking all of the competitors for their good behavior. Once more they had proved that Greece could be proud of its athletes. Thereafter as each athletes name and city was called, the athlete would step forward to receive his prize. The trumpets blew and the crowds cheered as each young man stepped forward, naked as the day they were born. For Demetrious it was the crowning achievement for his son Theo to receive the prize for the pentathlon. The crowds from Athens cheered wildly when his name was called. The prize giving continued. Samuel asked Demetrius if there was a prize for those who came second, to which Demetrious replied that was a bit of a strange idea why should there be a prize for someone who had not won. The prize giving ceremony continued until the sun touched the low hills to the north before the crowds began breaking up. Tomorrow people would start to leave; others would stay for one last feast and an offering to the gods. But tonight there would be a grand feast in the camp as each athlete would return to the camp to be greeted by his family and friends.
Samuel walked with Demetrius one last time from the stadium admiring the fine statues of past athletes which adorned the park, little realizing that this would be the last Olympic Games that he would attend for many long centuries. Of course in a later time when he thought back he would remember these five days as some thing special, a happy time in his life when the cares which usually worried him had seldom come to mind.
There was a fire and meat was being roasted. There was a carnival atmosphere about the camp that night. Wine flowed freely. People greeted each other and wished each other well for the next four years when the games would be played again. There was expectancy in the air. The athletes were coming home. The people of Greece did not have long to wait for they had only been at the camp some small amount of time before the athletes began arriving. This was cause for rejoicing. Now fully clothed in a light tunic, Theopolis arrived, the image of a young Apollo, to be greeted by much backslapping and congratulations. Samuel all the while sat to one side contemplating his next move. He knew that he had a good friend in Demetrius, but the time was fast approaching when he would have to once more start business at an inn. It seemed as if he had been serving mankind as an innkeeper forever. The strange thing about it he had grown to accept it and enjoyed it. Sometimes he made a lot of money doing it, other times he lost money but that was his eternal curse to serve mankind and give them accommodation for as long as they needed a bed or a meal Oh well tomorrow was another day. He would start once again to plan and decided where he would buy an inn what he would serve he had grown quite excited at the prospect. Greek food he found was varied. He simply loved the herb cheese that they made from goats milk, and the roasted lamb on the spit was another thing which he was quite fond of. If there was one thing the Greeks loved he realized, it was food, and well prepared food. He felt sure that he would be equal to the task at hand but tonight it was time for feasting congratulations and lovemaking, other things would take precedence tomorrow. But tonight for once he would enjoy himself. Pulling himself to his feet Samuel joined in with the people who were dancing. He was glad that through the ages he had changed his dress to what the locals wore. It was far more appropriate then wearing the long flowing robes of Israel. Now as he danced he blended in with all the other men who wore the short tunics of that age.
397AD Old friendships and days of Yore
It had been some thirty odd years since Samuel had come to Greece. The inn on the hill was doing well. His friendship with Demetrius and later with his son Theopolis had been very profitable. To blend in and to mask the fact that he did not age Samuel had taken to rubbing his hair with ash to give the appearance of aging. Early on in their friendship, Demetrius had said that it was time for Samuel to take a wife. To this Samuel had answered that he had a good looking slave girl in his employ that took care of his physical needs and there was no need. Demetrius had said but you need children my friend look at me I am close to fifty and I have five sons and four daughters and even some grand children you need a good woman to keep you warm in your old age. Samuel had smiled but remained firm in his decision he wanted no wife.
Now as they sat on a stone bench in the garden of the inn Demetrious nearing his eightieth year he was content with life a rich old man with few problems in life. About ten years earlier it had been commanded by the emperor that all citizens of the Pax Roma would now worship only God the Father, his son the Carpenter of Nazareth, and the Spirit as taught by the church. The service and worship of Zeus, Apollo, Isis and even the goddess of the city of Athens, the wise Athena, were closed. Priests of these gods were put out to earn an honest wage while the followers of the Nazerites grew in number, churches were erected everywhere.
This had been a very sad time for Demetrius who was a staunch believer in Zeus and Athena. He said at the time the gods were good enough for my family for thousands of years, they were good enough for me. They blessed me now I am told by purple decree that I must cast them off, but like all other citizens of the Pax Roma he had undergone the baptism into the new faith.
At first he had stubbornly resisted, but after a time he had given in, seeing that there was not much chance of the old god being restored. He began to change until the present when he was one of the most devoted members of the church of Athens; an old man with a white beard and hair who rose before dawn much like he always had to worship Athena now he rose to greet each day in the name of his savior Jesus.
Drinking some wine he said to his old friend Samuel I wish you would agree to be baptized old friend. You will see it is the only sensible thing to do. Forget about the past. Jesus can change all that for you. Samuel listened as the old Greek spoke then politely declined, saying he preferred to remain an agnostic Jew. The old Greek wanted to say some thing more but was interrupted by the appearance of Iona, the devoted slave who had been taking care of Samuels needs for so many years she had matured into a plump middle aged woman who lived to serve her master. Life had been good to her under Samuel she had learned to read and write. Her main function was to see that the inn was run well and nothing was left to get out of hand. Now she approached with a tray of sweet meats and pastries for the old men.
Thus through an accident of domesticity, Samuel missed the chance to be baptized into the faith of the Carpenter once more.
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