By Yoann Re
Screams and shouts rose from within the senate. Marcus Antonius could feel the agitation burst through the walls, yet life outside the basilica appeared unperturbed. Roman life went on as it always did on a hot, sunny afternoon in Rome. A faint glow hovered above the forum romanum, its stone infrastructure reflecting the sun’s rays on the traders, slaves and various freemen’s glistening skin. The smell of a vast array of foods filled the air, sometimes fresh and pleasant as one might expect from spices, and other times rancid and heavy when approaching meat stands.
Marcus Antonius swiftly dismissed Trebonius; he had unexpectedly engaged his attention in the forum and Marcus Antonius was starting to understand why. The look on the man’s face betrayed him, and Marcus Antonius remembered the warning he had received the previous day. He rushed inside the senate house, jostling his way through the old men trying to get a glimpse of the action for themselves. As he advanced deeper into the basilica, more men were rushing past him, a horrified stare carved across their face. Something horrendous had just occurred inside. Was the ludicrous warning turning to reality? It couldn’t be.
Shouts filled the room, but their nature was mixed: some men were crying in anger, possessed by a devastating rage; others lamented; and still more released terrified shrieks. The normally ordered and organised senate was now a mess, with men running into each as if running for their lives.
Senator Tillius Cimber bumped into Marcus Antonius and as he replaced his white toga on his shoulder, a glint of red caught his eye. His own toga was now stained with blood. He realised the senate room wasn’t as immaculate as it usually was – in appearance, at any rate. Blood was splattered on the stone floor, and soon a series of crimson-stained togas emerged. Marcus Antonius glimpsed a blade before vanishing behind a senator.
In one of the concentric rows of seats encircling the scarlet scene, only one man stood, immobile and dumb: Marcus Tullius Cicero. This was one of the men Marcus Antonius despised with a passion, yet he could not deny his impressive talent as an orator. His influence in the senate was significant and he was one of its leading voices; nothing happened without Cicero knowing of it. Yet at this present moment, he was petrified. Cicero was not in the know and his bewilderment was evident. It was a fascinating thing to see the famous Cicero silent as a hare amid the hubbub; he who always had something clever to say.
Marcus Antonius pushed Cassius Longinus aside, but as he spun round, Marcus Antonius saw his stained hand holding a dagger, its blade soaked in blood. Their eyes met, and Marcus Antonius understood with certainty who the victim of this barbarism was. He raised his gaze and finally saw the centre of attention; the very crime that had shocked Cicero to the core. A man was lying down on his back, the white toga turned red, his left leg bent in an unnatural direction. A series of crimson holes were scattered over the man’s toga, with blood still gushing from the wounds. It had been a battle of twenty versus a single man; the cruelty of Man portrayed at its best in one single scene. A tear rolled down Marcus Antonius’ cheek as he recognised his now dead friend. The law of nature had ruled and the hero had been defeated by cowardice, however powerful he had been alive. The Roman Republic had died along with the death of Gaius Julius Caesar.
Yoann Re has worked at the United Nations in New York, where he wrote statements for the government of the Maldives, including the President. He currently works in a diplomatic delegation in London and is a freelance proofreader on the side.