Our Little Roman Cousin of Long Ago - Julia D. Cowles

Marcus, the Man

Several years had passed, and Marcus was now seventeen years old. His birthday was always celebrated by the family, but never as it would be this year, for he had reached the age at which the boys of Rome put aside boyish affairs and became citizens of the Republic.

Marcus could hardly wait for the great day to come, for then he would put on, for the first time, the toga, the garment which only a citizen of Rome might wear: then he would take his place among the men of Rome.

Gaius sent invitations to all the relatives and friends, asking them to celebrate the feast with him, for he wanted Marcus to be shown as much honor as possible.

Very early in the morning the ceremonies began. After the company had gathered, Marcus took his place before the family altar, and laid upon it his boyhood emblems. For the first time since he was eight days old, he took from his neck the bulla, or locket of gold, which his father had placed there when he was named. This he laid upon the altar, and beside it he placed his white tunic, with its purple stripe, which showed him to be of noble birth; and Gaius then offered a sacrifice upon the altar.

The signs which had marked him as a boy had been put aside, the sacrifice was ended, and Marcus stood with flushed face and sparkling eyes, ready to be clothed with the toga, the emblem of manhood and citizenship. He drew a deep breath, as his father draped its graceful folds across his strong, young shoulders.

[Illustration] from Our Little Roman Cousin by Julia D. Cowles


Lucius was almost as eager as Marcus, and as he looked at the brother whom he admired so much, he said to himself, "Marcus is no longer a boy; he is a man: a citizen of our great Roman Republic."

Then Marcus and Gaius, and all the members of the family, with the relatives and friends, and all the slaves of the household, formed in procession. It was a gay and happy procession, and a very large one as well.

They left the home of Gaius and made their way through the streets of the city to the great Forum. Here Marcus' name was entered in the public records as a citizen of the Republic, and then the friends and relatives crowded about him and offered him their best wishes, while Marcus—feeling very much like a boy, yet—smiled and blushed, and was very happy indeed.

But this was not the end of the ceremonies. The procession formed in order once more, and from the Forum they went up to the temple of Liber—from which we get our word "liberty." The temple was built upon one of the seven famous hills of Rome. Here an offering was laid upon the altar, and then the procession turned back toward the home of Gaius.

The day closed with a splendid feast.

"How fine Marcus looks in his toga," said Terentia to Lucius, during the feast.

"Yes," answered Lucius, but he said it with a sigh, for never before had he envied Marcus as he had on this day.

"And Tullius looks fine in his toga, too," Lucius added, for Tullius had put on the toga of manhood a month before.

Terentia blushed brightly at Lucius' speech, and Lucius suddenly asked, "When are you and Tullius to be married, Terentia?"

"In another month, little brother," Terentia replied with a happy smile.

After all the processions, the sacrifices, and the feasting of the day were over, the family was left alone in the big atrium. Marcus looked about him with a heart full of happiness and contentment. Gaius stood near the family altar, Gaia sat near him holding Livia in her lap, for the little girl was tired after all the excitement of the day. Terentia and Lucius stood by the fountain.

"Only one thing remains," said Marcus, "to make this the happiest day of my life."

Gaius smiled, for he understood what Marcus meant. He spoke to one of the slaves, and a moment later Glaucon entered the room.

Then Marcus stood erect, and looking very tall and manly, he turned to his faithful pedagogue and said: "Glaucon, I have been so very happy to-day, that I want to give a lasting happiness to some one else. My father has granted my wish, and shares it. To-morrow prepare yourself to go with us to the Forum, and there you shall receive what you well deserve to have—the gift of freedom." It was several moments before Glaucon could trust himself to speak. Then he said, with grave dignity, "The gift shows the heart of Marcus—a citizen of whom Rome may well be proud."