And here we are in the south of the city on the Via Appia, at the foot of the Caelian hill. We’re going to travel clockwise around the city, finishing at the Colosseum, where we’ll board a shuttle for the last part of the tour. Note the elegant channels of light-emitting crystal that infuse the marble beneath our feet.
Now look up. See the aer chariots, divans, and palanquins? The wealthier classes don’t frequent the streets. The people milling about us in cheap togas are the plebeian classes who manage the storefronts. Over there in the segregated pedestrian lanes? Barbarian slaves. Don’t worry, they won’t attack you. They’re trained captives from a hundred conquered worlds, carrying out their masters’ tasks. The ones that can’t be trained, like that scaled Ichthyophagi in a cage, end up in an arena where their ferocity can entertain the public. See that small white body hefting a power cell? The thing with the large red eye in the center of its forehead? That’s an Iceni. And there, the massive blue-skinned, bull-like creature carrying its master’s trunk? That’s a Taurii. They’re strong and brave but in the end, every last one of them knelt before our golden eagle.
Okay, climb aboard the tour palanquin and we’ll take a leisurely cruise above the city. Hold onto the rail. Up we go. Make note of the seven sacred hills as we pass by. There are eight major houses and although each one rules its own galactic province, their administrative headquarters are located here in Rome, one house per hill. What about the imperial family? Since there are eight houses but only seven hills, Mother Earth herself is considered the emperor’s “hill”.
There, beside the Aventine, is the Circus Maximus, where the essedarii races are underway. They’ve had two-dozen fatalities this season. The leather reins the drivers wrap about their forearms allow them to manipulate the chariots’ anti-gravity engines but also ensure that even the slightest error results in the charioteer being dragged to death.
Of course, you recognize the ancient buildings of the Forum. There’s the Senate House and the majestic Arch of Septimius Severus. Admire the countless classical buildings of the city. Yes, they’ve been restored many times over thousands of years to preserve their historic integrity. You’ll be pleased to hear that even the most experimental architects are never permitted to dilute the city’s traditional style. To the west there’s the sacred Tiber river and to the north the sky-scraping Palladium, the giant statue of the city’s protectress Minerva, spear held aloft, ready to strike down any threat.
Hold onto your rail! That alarm means someone is violating the aerway safety laws. Everyone look to your right, as we approach the Colosseum. No, ignore the girl on the aer chariot to our left. She’s flying outside the demarcated lanes. It’s outrageous, not to mention extremely dangerous. The Praetorian guard will deal with her, I assure you. Yes, I know who she is. She’s been on the local vox populi network lately. Accala Viridius Camilla. The green and gold robes mark her as a member of House Viridian. The Viridians are an ancient family, headstrong and proud, but their protracted conflict with House Sertorian has left them all but broken.
The girl? She was in the news for all the wrong reasons. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but her mother and brother were killed in a Sertorian bombing attack and ever since she’s been pestering the Senate to let her join the legion and fight. Imagine that, a woman soldier? Equality of the sexes? The young have no sense. Next, they’ll be demanding we make citizens of the barbarians! When she didn’t get her way, Accala became a common gladiator, so she could fight against Sertorians in the arena. They call her Lupa She-Wolf. What must her father think?
Now, let’s get back on track. Behold the Colosseum!Rising up around the ancient arena are what we call the four horns–the towers that contain the city’s greatest ludi–gladiator training schools. As you know, the Viridians and Sertorians have gathered allied houses to their sides and are engaged in a civil war. The emperor, in his infinite wisdom, has declared that the upcoming Ludi Romani, the great games of Jupiter, shall be used to decide the winner of the conflict. The houses are fighting the final qualifying rounds to see who’ll be on the final teams. That’s why it’s swarming with fans down there. Seats for those matches are sold out but we can watch the giant-sized holographic projections of the matches in the air above the arena.
Who’s fighting in the next round? The girl who nearly ran us down in the traffic? No, I wouldn’t think so. Oh, you’re correct. It seems she was on her way to a fight. Yes, it says here she’s been denied a place on her family team but has found a loophole—she’s set to battle her own trainer to try out for a place with House Calpurnian’s Black Ravens. But we’re not really here to watch the gladiator fights. Let’s move on before the crowds start to leave. The traffic’s bad enough as it is.
Okay, now that we’ve landed, please exit the palanquin and board the shuttle, we’ll be leaving Mother Earth’s atmosphere in a few minutes.
Here we go. The last thing on our list is the Spatium Portus. Big, isn’t it? Most of you would have arrived at space port from your home province in a deceres class transport but I bet you never saw the rogues dock. Here private mercenaries and deep-space explorers hire themselves out to mining companies. Others are fortune hunters or religious missionaries prepared to head beyond the safety of the Barbaricum Wall into the uncivilized regions of the galaxy.
Why go home to a boring old life in the provinces? Anyone want to sign on with a rogue ship before we head back to the city? I didn’t think so. Don’t worry, it might sound exciting, but they have an even shorter life expectancy than chariot drivers. And don’t take what I said about the provinces to heart, there’s still hope for you, because however far you travel beyond the centre of civilization, we have a saying–all roads lead to Rome. Somehow, you’ll always find your way back here, to the jewel of the empire, to her marble streets and the Palladium’s ever-watchful gaze. Thank you for choosing Olympian Travel Tours.
No, I don’t know the outcome of the gladiator fights and I don’t really care what happened to the Viridian girl, unless the Praetorians ask me to stand as a witness against her for violating traffic law, which I’ll gladly do. I’m a tour guide, not a sports commentator. If you want to know what happened to her you’ll have to go and look it up yourself.