[The story revolves around] “the relationship between Rome and a minor kingdom situated between Egypt and Syria over an eighty-two year period from 38 BC to AD 44. The historical aspects (people, places, events) are accurate and deal with two major characters Augustus and Herod….It is a credible story and explains how Christianity could begin the process of growing from one man to over 2.2 billion people today–one third of the world’s people….[The] reader will travel from the crowded, dirty streets of Rome, to the world’s most beautiful harbor in Alexandria, and on to the flax fields of pale blue flowers in Galilee. Christian or not, this is a trip back into the past one will enjoy. I wholeheartedly recommend it. History Nut at Amazon.com, May 20, 2014
Two thousand years ago, Palestine was a minor kingdom situated between the Roman Province of Syria and the Roman breadbasket, Egypt. Strong hands were needed to keep the peace and Pax Romana prevailed because of the threat and sometimes the use of force.
Into this mix is woven a love story between Sphaerus, a personal servant to the powerful emperor Augustus, and Kallisto, a beautiful Jewish slave girl. To complicate matters, Kallisto brings into this relationship expectations of a Hebrew messiah. Whether in Egypt, Rome, or Greece, every Hebrew considered Jerusalem his home, and God help the Roman ruler who forgot that.
Delightful irony results when Eugenios, the son of Sphaerus and Kallisto, becomes an adviser to Herod. Eugenios successful family life provides a stunning comparison to the deranged families of his masters. Even a servant may learn that love is the most powerful weapon in life and the only source of true happiness.
The door slammed open, and in it stood Livia, my new mistress. Despite
my best intentions, somehow or other my arm had fallen over Kallisto
during the night. We were both dressed, but the impression Livia received
must have been one of two lovers sleeping.
“Oh,” said Livia, her small chin quivering, “you are here, Sphaerus.”
Where she expected me to be, I don’t know. “I was just wondering how
your wedding went.”
She was wondering no such thing. She was seeing whether Octavian
intended to keep the slave girl as a plaything. Now she would know that
Octavian had no intention of sharing the girl with a servant. It would be
“Just continue doing whatever it was you were doing,” Livia added as
she turned to close the door after her.
“Yes, mistress,” I said in relief to the closed door. “Thank you, mistress.”
Kallisto hadn’t said a word, but I could feel the shuddering beneath her
tunic. That was close. Had I slept in a friend’s cubicle as Kallisto ordered,
the penalty would have been severe.
Once the wedding took place, we would be moved into the adjoining
slaves’ quarters, for only a few select singles lived within the master’s
mansion. That was fine, for I didn’t relish many more visits like this one.
I hardly slept for the rest of the night, and when morning came, I made
sure I found the time to notify everyone that the wedding would take
place that evening at bedtime. I found Eli, a Samaritan rabbi, among the
servants cleaning the kitchen, and he told me what needed to be done to
satisfy Kallisto’s craving for a “proper wedding.” He was invited to preside
and bring everything necessary.
“But he’s a Samaritan!” she shouted. “I will not have a Samaritan rabbi
preside over my wedding.”
“He’s a Hebrew rabbi,” I said, beating my head against the wall.
“Samaritans are heathens. They accept only the Pentateuch, the first
five books of the Holy Writ.”
The enmity between Judeans and Samaritans existed from the splitting
up of the Hebrew nation into two parts after Solomon’s empire collapsed.
It was exasperated when Alexander the Great conquered the lands of the
Hebrews and allowed Samaria to build a second temple on Mount Gerizim
to rival the temple in Jerusalem.
“They are a herd of drunkards,” she cried. “Rabbinic law says, ‘A piece
of bread given by a Samaritan is more unclean than swine’s flesh.’”
I quieted her down and explained that if we ever found someone
more suitable, we would perform the ceremony a second time. She finally
realized we had little choice in the matter. A ceremony must be performed
and recognized by the household, especially Livia and Octavian.
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