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nuptiae "The Wedding"
Imperatoris sententia "The Emperor's Opinion"
In Domitian's palace, Titus Flavius Clemens, a relative of
the Emperor, is anxiously talking with Domitian. Clemens
usually agrees with the Emperor; for he is afraid that the same
thing may happen to him as (happened) to his brother Sabinus who was killed by the order of the Emperor.
It is proper for me, my Clemens, to honor your children, not only because of our relationship but also because of your virtues.
I myself, as you know, have no children to rule the empire after my death. Therefore, I have decided to adopt your children
into my family. I will give them the additional names of "Domitian" and "Vespasian"; besides, I will put
in charge of them a very well-known teacher, Marcus Fabius Quintilian. I know for certain that Quintilian will teach them
Clemens: I thank you very much, master, because you treat my sons with such great honor. I always -
Enough! I should now like to say a few words about your daughter, Polla. I believe that Polla is now fourteen years old.
Surely we should be placing her in marriage?
Clemens: Master -
Domitianus: I know a certain man who in every way is
worthy of your daughter. I recommend to you Sparsus, a senator of very great virtue who possesses great riches.
But, master, Sparsus is already fifty years old.
Domitianus: Yes! He is in the prime of life.
Clemens: But he has
already been married twice and has divorced both wives.
Domitianus: I know for certain that he will never divorce a relative
of the Emperor. In brief, I promise that Sparsus will be a very acceptable son-in-law to you. This is my opinion, which I
will change if you disagree. But first you must explain why you disagree.
Polla, Clemens' daughter, is complaining about her fortune; her mother, Flavia, is trying to console her.
How cruel is my father, who has ordered me to marry Sparsus!
Flavia: O darling, don't cry! Life is hard; it is necessary
to obey those who rule us. I believe, however, that Sparsus will be pleasing and kind to you.
Polla: Why do you deceive
me in this way? You know that he is an old man of very little charm! You also know that he has already divorced two wives.
But you, mother, are too much influenced by the Emperor's opinion; you care nothing for me and nothing for Helvidius whom
Flavia: Surely you are not so bold as to give way to that love? For that Helvidius is hateful to our family. Surely
you do not forget that his grandfather was killed in exile when he had offended Emperor Vespasian. Be sensible, my Polla.
It is better to give in than to resist in vain.
pridie nuptiarum "The Day Before the Marriage"
Tomorrow the marriage of Polla and Sparsus will be celebrated.
Polla is wanderng through her father's garden. She believes that she is alone; she does not know that Helvidlus has arrived.
Having secretly entered the garden, he hears Polla complaining; he stands motionless among the
will I do? Hevidius has been away three days now, and I don t know where he has gone. Meanwhile I see that our whole household
is being prepared for my hateful marriage. O Helvldlus, rescue me from these evils!
Helvidlus: (Having suddenly come
forward} I will do it willingly. No one will stop me.
Polla: (Moved by joy and panic) Helvidius! How did you come here?
If you are caught here, you will be killed. Flee, before my father catches sight of you!
Helvidius: Yes, I will flee,
but not without you. Escape with me, my Polla! I will rescue you from these evils, just as you were now pleading.
How can we escape? You yourself know that I am always
being guarded. In no way can I avoid tomorrow's wedding.
parents, the Emperor, and the laws order me and compel
me to marry Sparsus.
Helvidius: No, my Polla! I promise you
that I will die before that old man marries you. We must flee far away from this city, where your parents will never be able
to find us.
Polla: I am being torn apart and tormented. My love pulls me one way and my duty, another.
Don't be afraid, my Polla! I will never desert you, I will always keep you safe.
Flavia: (inside the house) Polla! Polla,
where are you?
Polla: Oh dear, I am being called by my mother. We must speak very briefly. Helvidius, I love you and I
will always love you. But I can't run away with you. Tomorrow Sparsus will take me as his wife.
with love and anger) So this is loyalty! You pretend to love me, in truth you love Sparsus. Obviously you are corrupted by
the riches of Sparsus; you don't give a hoot for my love.
Flavia: (inside) Polla! Where are you, Polla?
worn out with pain) Listen, my Helvidius. I will speak these last words to you; for I don't think that I will ever see you
again. Tomorrow I will marry Sparsus. There is no hope of escape for me. But, although Sparsus will take me as his wife, my
Helvidius, I swear that I love only you, I swear that I...(She tries in vain to hold back her tears.) will always love you...will
love (Her voice fails.)
Helvidius: (seizing Polla's right hand) Polla, stop torturing you and me! I call the gods to witness
that Sparsus will never take you as his wife. Trust me, my Polla. (Helvidius embraces Polla passionately and leaves.)
(As she watches Helvidius leaving, she is uncertain whether to be hopeful or afraid.) Goodness Fortune, keep him safe!
confarreatio I "The Marriage Ceremony I"
It is the day of the wedding. Polla, dressed in her wedding clothes,
is standing in her bedroom. Her mother is looking at her.
Flavia: Now turn towards me, Polla! Is the veil firmly placed
on your head? (She sees that Polla is crying.) O my daughter, you must not cry; it's not proper to cry on your wedding day.
Clemen's slave: (enters) Mistress, I have been ordered to summon you to the sacrifice. My master says that the victim
has already been chosen, and the soothsayers are standing by prepared. The messenger is also here now; he says that the Emperor,
accompanied by Sparsus, will soon arrive.
Flavia: Good! Tell your master that we will go immediately to the hall.
and Polla proceed to the hall where many friends, relatives, and clients are already present. Suddenly a huge din arises:
Spectators: Hurrah! Hurrah! The Emperor is coming! Sparsus is coming!
Sparsus enters, accompanied by many slaves;
then Domitian himself enters.
Spectators: Good luck! Good luck!
Polla who is very upset is led towards Sparsus; they
solemnly join hands. Then Domitian, as Chief Priest, moves forward to offer the sacrifice to Jupiter.
Sparsus: Sit down
in this chair, my Polla. I see that you are tired. Soon the priest will finish the sacrifices.
Then you will become
my wife. In the middle of the hall, a victim is being sacrificed by Domitian; prayers are being offered to Jupiter and Juno.
Polla, however, is so disturbed that she can scarcely hear the prayers; in her mind lingers Helvidius' last words: "I
call the gods to witness that Sparsus will never take you as his wife."
Sparsus: (He notices that Polla is upset.)
Don't be afraid, my Polla! Now we shall celebrate our marriage.
Domitian: (offering the cake to Sparsus and Polla) Eat
this sacred cake! Sparsus and Polla, sitting side by side, eat the sacred cake.
Domitian: Be quiet, all of you who are
here! (Everyone is quiet.) I promise you that this virgin is now passing into the hands of this man.
luck! Good luck!
Domitian: Now make way for the witnesses! The marriage contracts must be signed.
After the marriage
contracts have been signed, everyone proceeds to the dining room where a sumptuous dinner is ready.
As the sun sets, the slaves prepare to escort Polla to Sparsus' house, where Sparsus, who set out earlier,
is already waiting for her. A chorus of musicians is beginning to sing the wedding song.
Chorus: O Hymen Hymenaeus. O
Flavia: My daughter, I embrace you in this way and say good-bye. Good-bye, my Polla, good-bye!
slaves, as is the custom, tear the girl away from her mother. Two boys, who are carrying burning torches, escort Polla out
of the house. The procession accompanied by a very large crowd proceeds through the streets.
Chorus: Lift up yuor torches,
o boys! I see the veil coming. O Hymen Hymenaeus, O Hymen Hymenaeus!
Finally the procession arrives at Sparsus' house which is decorated with flowers.
Who are you? By what name do you come here?
Polla: Where you are Gaius, then I am Gaia.
After saying these solemn
words, Polla smears the doorposts with oil to turn away the evil eye. Meanwhile, Sparsus, standing in front of the door, receives
the congratulations and jokes of the spectators. Suddenly a loud noise is heard; a young man, armed with a dagger; breaks
out of the
middle of the crowd. He rushes headlong at Sparsus.
Young man: Hold on now, Sparsus! (He fiercely attacks
Sparsus with the dagger; Sparsus however; while fiercely defending himself tries to grab the young man's arm.)
A huge din arises; the slaves run forward; some spectators come to the aid of Sparsus and the slaves; others
stand motionless and dumb-founded. Polla, however; having recognized the young Helvidius, grows pale.
with Helvidius) Hurry! Hurry!
The slaves finally seize Helvidius and firmly hold him back.
Sparsus: (Shouting) I
recognize him! He is Helvidius, a man very hostile to the Emperor's family. Take him to the Emperor. I know for certain that
the Emperor will think up a very suitable punishment for him. (Polla shudders.) Don't be afraid, my Polla! That insane young
man will never bother us again. Now it is time for you to enter your new home.
Sparsus lifts Polla in his arms to carry
her across the threshold. Helvidius is led away to Domitian.