At The Imperial Palace, Rome, 3 BC Or So

The hour is late.  Another delegation

has just arrived---from where? ---Jerusalem.

The short epistle they have sent ahead

from the Sanhedrin asks me to condemn

King Herod for some deaths in Bethlehem

(a village of which I have never heard).

They say he killed infant, and newly born,

under two years, in mass assassination

for fear of some old prophet's speculation

that one of those children, who now are dead,

was destined to become King of the Jews.

But who should wear that crown is mine to choose.

Herod is growing old.  He used to scorn

those writings that his subjects call "the word

of God."  But, still, his instincts remain shrewd:

all his political experience

has taught him that forward expedience---

planned thoroughly, swiftly administered

with ruthless force---will easily conclude

local strife.  His responsibility

is to defend Rome's claims.  Offensively

moving to take action against the threat

(although with his accustomed cruelty),

he took the advanced opportunity

and acted in Rome's interest, credibly.

That old rascal is useful even yet;

a loyal tool, despite his many flaws.

To hate him, Cleopatra had good cause.

And, shameless, he betrayed Mark Antony

without a hint of human hesitation.

Since then he has proven loyal to me

(although, in those days, he was closely watched;

but no task that we asked of him was botched).

Despite his bloodthirst one forgives his guilt,

considering (and lost in admiration

for) Caesarea Maritima, built

to house the veterans that have fought for us,

and to extend our commerce on the sea,

and bearing my name as a dedication.

Send in those envoys:  this will not take long.

The matter is not really worth the fuss,

although my own thought on it is divided.

They are not quite right and are not quite wrong.

For now, the question cannot be decided.






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