Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Roman Soldier and the Conveyor Belt Miracle

'See that?' the man sitting next to me last night said, rolling up a trouser leg. Fortunately the light in the bar was dim and I could only just make out the scars.

'The bone went through there. I was pointing one way, my leg the other. I heard it snap. They were talking about taking it off, but this bone specialist came long and felt a pulse in my little toe and told them he could save it.'

Gaius Lucius Cadaras (not his real name) was explaining to me how he came to be a Roman soldier. 'I'm a hygienist. My job is to go in to a place, with my team, and clean it out. So I was in this place, with my lance, and it got trapped under the conveyor belt with one leg here, and the other here, and the conveyor belt still going, and, like I say, I heard the snap.'

'Anyway, after that, it was just the four walls of my living room for month after month, until, one day, I saw an advert in the paper for Roman soldiers...'

Gaius named himself after a real Roman soldier. He passes his stone every time he goes into the Museum, and Gauis (II) has researched his history. The original Gaius came from south west Spain and joined the Roman army aged 14. He died in Chester aged 28, and Gaius II believes that by taking his name he is paying homage to him.

'One day I'll meet him,' he says. 'One day, when it's my turn...'

I first encountered Gaius II as one of the bearers of my friend Mike's coffin. All the bearers were dressed in the gear they wear when they march, in formation, around Chester: sandals, short toga, armour, I can't really remember the details, my mind was elsewhere, but I was aware of them there. It could have been blackly comic, but in fact it was the opposite - very dignified.

Becoming a Roman soldier, for Gaius, has been a spiritual experience. He has adopted the faith, at least in part. On December 18th is the feast of Saturn - a pagan festival which predates Christianity. On that day, according to Gaius, the slaves were free, and to celebrate Gaius and the other soldiers are going to march with lanterns through the streets before feasting and dancing at the Groves.

On other days, he and the other Roman soldiers have visited Roman temples and Gaius has baptised himself in an underground font. Once, he recalls, seven of them were visiting a temple on a pilgrimage together and as they walked through a field seven bullocks made way for them and bowed their heads, while overhead an out-of-season flock of Canada Geese called out as they flew.

'They shouldn't have been there, then,' says Gaius, 'Canadian Geese are winter birds and this was August - it was all a sign.' Then, later, when they came out of the temple, there was a double rainbow, and they knew they'd been blessed.

'Everyone was healed,' Gaius said. 'there were several friends that we knew that were ill just then, and they all pulled through, not at once, but within the week.'

Gaius Lucius Cadarus (II) is well-built, almost burly. There are tattoos over both arms, and the role of Roman soldier suits him. Since becoming a soldier he has researched Roman history and seems to be hungry for information about the period. His life has clearly been transformed and enriched by an incident that, for a few hours, had looked like it was about to destroy it. I spent a fascinating half hour talking to him.


Blogger Kay said...

Fascinating ... I never knew that such a group of people existed. Sounds like material for some writing Clare? Maybe now ... maybe later ... sounds like Clarescapedn meeting Gaius was meant to be!

Sun Nov 30, 02:44:00 am  
Blogger Susangalique said...

I love hearing battle scar stories

Sun Nov 30, 04:08:00 am  
Blogger stu said...

One of the slightly worrying things about being a fencer (of which there are, admittedly, several) is that you tend to run into the re-enacters on a semi-regular basis. Mostly, they seem to spend their time telling us that we're not using the swords properly.

Sun Nov 30, 12:18:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Heh, I can imagine, Stu. There must be a good answer to this - like I prefer to use the Post Byzantine variant type of stance.

Susnagalique: Yes! Battlescars in more sense than one - very good.

Kay: I thought maybe a short story one day - he was such a compelling character.

Sun Nov 30, 01:34:00 pm  
Blogger BarbaraS said...

What a great story! You never know what people are going to tell you... and this is a real corker.

Sun Nov 30, 02:59:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Barbara, I agree - you don't even have to go very far or seek them out. I think if you sit still long enough they'll come to you.

Sun Nov 30, 04:32:00 pm  
Blogger JL said...

Re-enactors are a very strange, yet sometimes very interesting bunch. The bad people are terrible, and reduce history to posturing and trivia; the good people are amazing repositories of historical perspective.

I should know. I live with one.

Mon Dec 01, 02:51:00 am  

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