“This is just not our day” growled Titus to himself as he spurred his horse, making the beast leap forward. The man grit his teeth as wispy branches whipped his face, and the horse let out an indignant bellow when the ground became rough.
“They swore. They swore before Jupiter Elicius himself,” the Roman repeated to himself. Behind him was a sight of horror that had curdled his blood and chilled his bones. King Mettius, sworn servant of Rome, had ordered his men to retreat in the face of battle. Retreat, and allow the barbarians a straight path to the flanks of the Roman host.
Treason! Might as well have handed away the keys of Rome herself! Titus would have sworn vengeful oaths and called down curses on Mettius in the name of Jove himself had he the chance, but he was too angry for such complex thought. Besides, the enemy was fast advancing. He could hear them crashing behind him. If his horse did not hurry, he would only be racing to view the carnage of defeat.
The olive branches did not let up, even their smaller twigs struck fast and hard, and it was a miracle that the horse could maintain his footing through the thickets that grew at their roots!
Titus crashed through the chaparral and sighed a sigh of relief when brought his horse to a champing halt before the Roman ranks, and the retinue of Tullus Hostilius, King of Rome.
“What news?” asked the king hurriedly, calming his own horse from the surprise of Titus’ arrival.
“King Mettius retreats!” Titus gasped. He meant to say more, to rage and to roar, but those were the words that came.
The look on Tullus’ face was a thousand auguries. The stern face became lashed with concern, and the dark eyes that gazed impassively as he sentenced judgments and punishments became tinted with fear.
“Very good, very good,” said the king in a confident voice that auspiciously echoed into the olive groves and hills for miles around. “This is no cause for concern, for King Mettius is doing as I commanded. Soon,” and with this he turned his head directly towards the front, “Rome’s enemies will find themselves quite surrounded, by Tullus at the front, and Mettius at the rear!”
* * *
I read the story of Tullus Hostilius the other day. I just got over a week-long migraine; It was decidedly not fun, in fact it was the polar opposite. I was lost and directionless, momentarily of course, and I decided to grab a book off of my shelf, eat pizza, and read whatever that book may say. So I grabbed a book of Roman history, Livy’s first-cenury masterpiece The Early History of Rome, and headed off to my favorite pizza parlor.
My migraines usually last one to three days, and a week is almost unheard of for me. I emphasize the almost, because it has happened before. The last time was back in 2016 I think, around August. So I was rather in the mood to read of conquering heroes and daring adventures. They wrote history books differently back then, that is to be sure. Probably to compete with gladiator fights and chariot races.
The story of Tullus, who ruled Rome in the seventh century before Christ (about 100 years after its founding in 753 BC) struck a chord with me.
It is especially difficult when a migraine breaks the normal rules that migraines tend to follow. I have routines, procedures, and methods of controlling and dealing with migraines; music, certain food, mechanical meditation with Legos, and essentially living life on standby until the blessed day the migraine breaks. An unusual migraine throws all that out.
You see, Tullus had ordered Mettius to guard his flank, nothing fancy.
Mettius was king of Albans, Rome’s very first conquered city, and even that is debatable, because Rome owned Albans because Mettius had made a bad bet on a good fight. Mettius was king, but he was king under Rome, and his people were not happy with their king’s foolishness. So he intended to undermine Rome by letting King Tullus die in battle with a neighboring Italian tribe, Veii.
When Tullus made his declaration, he said it loud enough to comfort his men, but also loud enough for the men of Veii to hear. His off-the-cuff tactic worked. The men of Veii, not happy with the whole ‘being surrounded’ thing, fled and Tullus won the day.
Tullus dealt with a situation that went the opposite of how he expected it to go. And in desperation, he found a way that worked. Sometimes migraneurs will find themselves in similar situations. Not as drastic or decidedly Roman as Tullus, but times will come where they find themselves outside of their comfort zone (and I certainly love my comfort zone. In fact, I think that shall be my next post topic)
This time I accepted that I was going to be less productive, that I would have to accept lesser work from myself until my migraine subsided. That is how I dealt with it at least. Was it the best way? I don’t know. But it worked for me and got the job done. But I am reminded now that these things can happen, and that is of course a good reminder.