Meet Pontius Pilate: An Excerpt from The Q Fragments

The scene is the center of Roman power in ancient Judea. Pilate rules Judea for the Roman Emperor Tiberius who has sent two men to keep Pilate in check – Lucius Quintus and his companion and teacher, Kasha, black African warrior.

 

The Centurion Marcus Claudius Strabo strode purposefully through the halls of Herod’s Palace by the sea in Caesarea Maritima, now the seat of Roman administrative power in Judea.  Those in his path were careful to give him plenty of room. Marcus’ temper was known and feared by all. Powerfully built, tall, his hair almost white, Marcus was a master with the Roman gladius and pilum, the short sword and javelin, and few dared to challenge him. Rumor was that in Rome, he had entered the arena, disguised as a gladiator, and killed all those who opposed him, winning a wreath from the Emperor. 

This was, indeed, rumor. Marcus had never been to Rome. Until he had joined the Legion in Gaul, he had not ventured more than a few leagues beyond his village. Now, thirty years later, he had seen half the world and he liked most of it better than he liked Judea.

“The Prefect?” Marcus snapped at a minor official hurrying by with an armload of scrolls. “Where is he?”

“Sorry, your honor, he is, I think… yes, he is in the baths,” the man stammered, gesturing with chin over the pile of scrolls toward the sea.

“The baths,” Marcus grumbled as he stalked off, “Hell’s own dark gate, the baths. Always the baths. You’d think he’d be clean enough by now.” He quickened his pace, scattering servants before him.

The Roman Governor of Judea, Prefectus Pontius Pilate, lay reclined on a delicate cedar wood divan, talking with a small group of similarly reclining men. They were laughing at some joke and eating olives, fish, bread and cheese, washed down with wine in large silver cups.

“Ah! Marcus,” Pilate exclaimed, “join us. Pico here has a delicious tale of his evening with Herod’s people.”

“I swear by the gods, if Herod was dispossessed of that dense beard and those ringlets about his ears, anyone would take him for a Roman patrician’s wayward son,” said one of the men with Pilate.

Had Pilate grown his hair and beard, he might have been mistaken for a Jew. His hair was cropped short which did not conceal the gray beginning to show amidst the black. He was medium height, but powerfully built, his tanned face broken by wrinkles and a long scar running down from the corner of his left eye, separating the end of that eyebrow into a small, black island, the scar then continuing deeper across the cheekbone, trailing off before cutting through his upper lip. A handsome face, even with the scar. Handsome, edged with hardness and a hint of cruelty.

“Prefect, I bring news,” Marcus said, looking pointedly at the reclining guests. Pilate stood. 

“Please continue. I must deal with the Empire’s business,” he said to the others.

He and Marcus walked to the western end of the baths and decorative pools Herod had built on a low promontory by the shore of the Middle Sea. The distance from the others and the roll of the waves breaking on the rocks below gave them privacy of speech.

“They are here,” Marcus said.

“Hmm…… Tiberius’ spy and his black shadow, at last. No matter. We are prepared are we not? Everyone knows their duty.”

“We are ready, Prefect,” Marcus said.

“We must be cautious with the Jews. They are a stiff necked lot, and, my bones tell me, are bound to cause trouble before our visitors depart.”

“Many Jews have found it in their best interests to obey your counsel.”

“True, but that business of the shields in Jerusalem still rankles and Tiberius has not forgotten. Nor, apparently, forgiven.”

“The Jews were quick enough to take our gold then. They will again, should it come to it.”

“We will deal with them,” Pilate said, “but now, tell me your news.”

“Two fast triremes are coming into the harbor. They tie up within the hour. They fly the Senate’s flag, so it is him, Lucius Quintus. How shall we receive him?”

“As we would Tiberius himself,” Pilate said, then laughed, “Well, not as the old man himself, more as a demi-Tiberius I should think.”

“A reception party of virgins and young boys then?” Marcus chuckled.

Pilate did not smile. “You do not know the old man,” he said. “Tiberius cares not for the debauch and wine. Would that he did for his mind would not have rested here, on Judea, on us. He eats simply and drinks sparingly. His tastes run to philosophy and the ways of the Greeks, not the sybarites. Unfortunate for us…”

Both men stood silent for a while, watching the perfect sweep of the ships’ three tiers of oars as they appeared beyond the point and made their turn into the harbor.

“Come, let us prepare to greet Tiberius’ watch dogs,” Pilate said.

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