I, Claudia

 

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The nightmares began in my childhood…
  
Since then, they have grown stronger. Horrific dreams of blood and death, of dark specters and betrayal haunt me.
 
Mother wants me to become a seer in the temple of Minerva. I would much rather marry the dashing military commander, Pilate, instead. Every auger that sees me, fears me. They know, as I do, that something is different about me, something I cannot control, and that will haunt me until a Jewish messiah takes my hand in Judea.
 
Not even he can save me from what lies ahead in Rome, nor, I fear, can he save Pilate from a choice that will change the course of history forever.
 
My name is Claudia, and this is my story.

 

Author's Notes:

 

It grew from a single thought, a spark of desire to know what lay behind the mysterious phrase, “But Pilate’s wife had dreamed of Jesus, and sent him a warning.”
 
Who was this mysterious woman, who felt so strongly about the Nazarene that she broke protocol and sent a message to her husband pleading with him not to condemn the prisoner? What was the nature of her dream? Who was she, and what did she know of the Messiah?
  
The woman legend calls Claudia Procula is as much an enigma as the reference in scripture, for that is the only proof of her existence. Aside from early church speculations, nothing is known about her past, presence in Judea, or ultimate end. There is also, surprisingly, a lack of information about her husband, Pontius Pilate. Other than a half dozen cryptic references to him in the New Testament, the only other mention of his fate is found in the first century writings of the historian Josephus, who records several of Pilate’s crimes in Judea and also that he was removed from office because of repeat attacks against the Jewish nation.
  
I was left with a very small amount of historical material and vast opportunity for conjecture, taking in to consideration the folklore surrounding both Pilate and his wife. Some believe Claudia was Jewish, but given Pilate’s well-documented anti-Semitism, it’s unlikely he would have married a Jew. Others stand by the claim that she was an illegitimate daughter of the emperor Tiberius. This is equally unlikely due to the historical records following the line of emperors. It’s certain that Claudia was of noble bearings. That’s all I know. The rest, I made up… or did I? You’ll have to do your own research to find out.
  
There are as many myths about Pilate himself, from speculation that he was a son of Sejanus to a soldier whose military prowess allowed him to eventually obtain a position of power.
  
Christianity has vilified him for centuries, painting him with many different brushes. There is the relentless, cruel Pilate of early church theology; the foolish and weak Pilate portrayed in passion plays; and the empathetic, reluctant Pilate of more recent works. It’s my hope that “my” Pilate you will see as many things… as a husband, a lover, a Roman, a Governor, and in the end, someone whose life was changed significantly through the same Messiah who has so profoundly changed mine.

     

Excerpt:

 

Mother takes a longer time with her seer than usual.

 

Normally, she spends less than half an hour in his stinking hovel. She pays him coins, he throws ash onto the fire, tells her what she wants to hear, and we go home.

 

Today, it is different. I stand at the tent entrance with the late afternoon sun beating on my neck and glance at our Jewish servant girl, Libi. “Go inside,” I say.

 

She shakes her head. “I can’t. Father forbids me. You know that.”

 

I push aside the thin curtain and duck inside. The walls teem with jars and shelves; entrails float in green liquid. The hovel smells like death. Our seer sits over glowing embers in a pit with Mother opposite, a stark contrast in her rich tunic from his poor homespun rags. He starts from his trance but as his one good eye falls on me, the half-spoken curse halts on his lips.

 

“You ask for truth, mistress?” he rasps. Pointing to me with a bony finger, he says, “Here’s a true teller of fortunes. Through her lips pours wisdom unrivaled yet it goes unheeded. She’ll bear a man to greatness and see him destroyed.”

 

Cold races up my spine and my mother laughs bitterly. “Claudia is of no importance. Your runes lie.”

 

“Belittle her gifts at your peril,” he answers, indicating the door. “I’ll speak no further to one who doubts my runes. Get out, and never return.”

 

Anger fills her face and she throws her coins at him. He tosses them back at her and shoves us out into the street. His beady eyes follow us down the road. Once out of sight, Mother slaps Libi. “You’re supposed to keep Claudia outside!” she snaps.

 

Libi shuffles her armload of silks and perfumes and whispers, “I’m sorry, Mistress.” She shoots me a glance and I shrug apologetically. Her beauty increases by the day and despite her simple garments and head covering, she still draws attention. Male eyes drift over me and linger on her with open interest.

 

We pass through the gates of Rome and walk toward the vineyards outside the city. My father’s is the largest and the light beats off its high white walls as we approach. Catching sight of us from the gates, a servant runs to meet us. Panting, he cries out, “Mistress, the Fifth Legion nears Rome!”

 
“Quintus will be with them!” Mother’s face brightens. “The gods bless us at last! Your brother returns   home!” She hurries inside with Libi on her heels. Rather than accompany them, I...

 

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