By André Bastos Gurgel, OAB
I got the idea for these made-up interviews from the novel “Grog” by the Italian writer Giuseppe Papini, though his “interviews” were with people a bit more contemporary. Today’s interview is with Rome’s fourth emperor, Claudius, who welcomed me at his palace. Although many historians accuse him of being weak and stupid, it was obvious to me that the man I was interviewing was a wise scholar.
Q. Ave, Claudi. Thanks for receiving me, and congratulations on becoming emperor of Rome. Are you enjoying your new position?
A. If I’m honest, I haven’t enjoyed it much at all since I’m a republican at heart. Being chosen as emperor was a total surprise, and honestly, I would have considered myself to be the last person in Rome to take this job. Still, I don’t think I could have refused or Rome might have faced another civil war! And now that I’m here, I will do the best I can for Rome. Off the record, I wish this had never happened – I’m a scholar by nature, but I hardly have any time to write anything anymore. Apart from that, I’ve been advised by people like my childhood friend Herodides that I can’t trust anyone anymore, even my closest friends!
Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. I am very fond of achitecture and am looking forward to building new acqueducts and roads all over the empire. I hope, in the future, that people will continue to say that all roads lead to Rome. I also hope that Rome will now enjoy a long period of peace to make up for Caligula’s troublesome rule. I will protect the republic and use force only as a last resource. The empire’s borders have been consolidated and there is no more need for wars to conquer new territories. In my opinion, it’s about time Rome stopped talking about civilizing barbarians. What if they don’t want to be civilized? Shouldn’t we respect their wishes? It seems such a pity that not many other Romans share this view!
Q. How do you feel about Caligula? Do you think he deserved his fate?
A. I knew Caligula as a child. In fact, I was there when people started calling him “Little Boot” (Caligula), and I always thought he was destined to be a great man. Unfortunately, due to the onset of mental illness, he ended up doing many evil things. I was sorry when I heard that he was murdered, and I wish he’d been removed from office through peaceful and legal means. I don’t think violence is the answer to everything. Speaking of Caligula, I hope people in the future won’t take that horse story seriously. Caligula was only joking about making Incitatus a senator.
Q. Can you give us some more details about your republican views? Would you like
Rome to go back to being a republic again?
A. I absolutely believe Rome should become a republic again. Unfortunately, I can’t really say that to anyone else since it’s now a very unpopular view. Emperors have far too much power, and it’s so easy to turn an empire into a dreadful tyrannical state. It’s a pity so few people agree with me.
Q. In the future, people will remember you as a scholar-emperor. Which would you say is your magnum opus?
A. I’m very fond of the Etruscan grammar I wrote. Learning archaic languages is a hobby of mine, and I hope people will be interested in learning them in your time as well. It’s such a shame that the Etruscan language and culture are no longer around. No one really knows what happened. In the early days of Rome, we even had kings who were of Etruscan origin. Back when our ancestors first came to Italy from Troy, there was a huge variety of languages spoken here. People accuse me of being anti-Roman when I say this, but I wish they hadn’t died out!
Q. I heard that you’ve gotten married again. Congratulations! What do you think of your new bride Messalina?
A. I am the happiest man in the world! Messalina is the best wife ever, and I couldn’t ask for a better companion in my old age. She is lovely, passionate, an amazing wife in every aspect. She’s even involved in charitable causes. Still, I often wonder why she has to do so much charitable work at night…but you know what women are like! As I often say, we should love women wholeheartedly and not try to understand them. I’m also thrilled that she’s given me a son to carry my name forward, though for some reason he looks a lot like Iumbus, my Ethiopian slave. Maybe it’s because Messalina kept dreaming about an exotic desert called ‘chocolate’ when she was pregnant. I sent messengers all over the known world looking for it, but in vain. As you know, we Romans take dreams very seriously.
Q. Is there a message you would like to send to people in the future?
A. Only that there is no greater joy than learning classical languages. I am very happy to hear that you teach so many classical, ancient, and archaic languages at your school. I wish I could go forward in time with you and take a course in Ancient Egyptian or Babylonian. There are very few people who can read these languages. If I did learn them, I would at last become a great scholar!
I must apologise to all the teachers, students and enthusiasts who are reading this interview. I was in a such a hurry to get to my next interview that I left behind the emperor’s gift to me, an origianl copy of his Etruscan grammar! I hope my scholar friends will forgive me for his slip. Mea maxima culpa!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
André Bastos Gurgel, OAB (Order of Attorneys of Brazil), Academic Advisor for the Carmenta Online Latin School, is a life-long student of both modern and ancient languages. Mr. Gurgel is fluent in English, Portuguese, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Latin (the last of which he learned with Carmenta) and has a working knowledge of Danish, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. Mr. Gurgel is currently studying Old English through Carmenta as well.
Click here to read Mr. Gurgel’s full profile.