Cast:Marcus Soldier with a cruel streak. Enjoys administering
Trellius Frustrated by being on punnishment detail in
Jerusalem instead of fighting a glorious battle for Rome
Educated man. Knows much about Jewish culture and customs
Milenius Centurian in charge of the three soldiers
(Scene: Three men enter stage right.)
MARCUS:How can you be so stupid? To even suggest that
the Jews have the only god...
ARTOSI didn't say that I believed it. It's just that
TRELLIUSListen to the two of you! Gods! You (Points to
Marcus) Listening to these stories our ancestors stole from the Greeks. Gods
under every rock! And you (Points to Artos) listening to these Jewish fantsies
of a god that they don't even know the name of!
ARTOSIt's not that they don't know the name it's
MARCUSYou're a mighty brave man tempting the god's in
that way. You really should show them respect.
TRELLIUSRespect? How can I respect what doesn't
MARCUSWell the next time you march off to war, tell me
you aren't going to call on Mars for protection. (Turning to Artos) How are you
going to call a god with no name.
ARTOSLook, I never said I honored their god. I just find
it interesting thats all. I've listened to their teachers, and some of them are
TRELLIUSIf they're so wise, why don't you ask them how
we can get off this accursed punnishment detail. Whipping prisoners will never
let us retire in comfort. There's no glory.
MARCUSNo glory maybe but...don't you ever get pleasure
when you hear them scream?
MARCUSThat's power. Roman power!
TRELLIUSRoman power Marcus? Laying open the backs of
theives, common criminals is your idea of Roman power?
MARCUSIt's discipline that holds an empire together,
Trellius. Without law and order it all falls apart.
TRELLIUSI'm trained to fight the armies that would stand
against us. You can stay in Jerusalem to be law and order. Beter still, leave it
to the likes of Artos here, who wants to be a Jew.
ARTOSAh Trellius,you wouldn't understand. I merely take
an interest in studying the people who's country we are occupying.
MARCUSAnd what is wrong with obeying orders? I seek only
to do as I am told, as a Roman soldier should. If I can be a tool of Roman
justice well, I don't mind spilling the blood of lawbreakers. I'll end up back
home if I do as I'm told.
ARTOSIf you accept where you are, you might find
yourself actually enjoying yourself. This is not such a bad place to be. These
people already have laws that keep them pretty much in line. Better here than
trying to tame those Britons.
TRELLIUSWell the weather is nicer here I understand.
Very harsh winters there. But Marcus you'd enjoy it there. They say you can flog
the hide off those animals and still they'll spit at you. Even you could get
your fill of being Romes master of discipline.
MARCUSI never said that this was my choice of duty. But
duty it is, and I'll carry out my orders.
ARTOSAnd meanwhile, satisfy those sadistic tendencies of
TRELLIUSWell speaking of orders, do either of you have
any idea why we've been called at this time of morning? I mean who do they need
us to flog this early? And why all three of us? How many have they got?
ARTOSI think we're about to find out.
(Enter Centurian Bradus Milenius. The Three soldiers stand at
attention and salute.)
THREE SOLDIERSHail Caesar!
(Returns salute)Are you three men ready? They'll be
bringing the prisoner out in a short time.
TRELLIUSOnly one prisoner sir?
MILENIUSThat's right. Only one, a Jew. He's got the
governors palace in an upraoar too.
MARCUSUproar! I'll show him an uproar . These Jews need
to be shown how to behave like civilized people. If we stay firm with them, the
rabble rousers will learn in time that it's no use to try to stir up dissention
MILENIUSThis isn't one of the rabble rousers. In fact,
Artos you should find this one quite interesting, being so interested in Jewish
ARTOSOh? Is it one of the political cases?
MILENIUSWell, yes and no. It's an internal Jewish
political affair. Actually more religious than political.
ARTOSWell who is it?
MILENIUSHis name is Jesus. The Jews are trying to
pressure the gov...
ARTOSJesus?! The Nazerene? There's been talk this past
TRELLIUSWith all due respect sir, why are soldiers of
Rome called to punnish crimes against Jewish law? Since when do they dictate to
us who to flog?
MILENIUSWell just between us, Pilate has been trying to
send him back to Herod. He'd just as soon not deal with it himself. He says that
the man has commited no crimes against Roman law, but the Sanhedrin have been
putting some heavy pressure on him
MARCUSAnd he's giving in to a bunch of old Jewish
priests and scribes?
MILENIUSI don't know. Somebody seemed to worry about
Ceasar hearing that Pilate is against him. I don't know, I'm not paid to analyze
politics. I'm to carry out my orders, and see to it that those below me carry
MARCUSDon't worry about me sir. I always carry out my
orders. I don't care who it is, or what they've done.
MILENIUSBe ready. I'll be back to give the official
MARCUSSo Artos, what about this Jew? What's the name?
ARTOSNo no it's Jesus. He's one of their teachers. Some
say he's a prophet, others say that he teaches heresy against their religion.
TRELLIUSWho cares about their religion? That's the
trouble with Rome, we allow too much freedom. Do away with that temple, and
crush these desert animals, and we'd have much less to worry about.
ARTOSAh but Trellius, this is how we are distinguished
from the barbaric cultures. We allow our subject peoples a small measure of
their own culture, and we have less to fear from them in terms of rebellion.
MARCUSNever mind culture! You can't flog a man properly
if you're worried about his culture, or how he prays or how many gods he
worships! Get your mind right! Are you ready to make a Jew scream? Are you ready
to open up a back?
ARTOSAre you questioning my capability as a soldier
Marcus? Because if you are, we can settle the matter right here and now.
(Steps toward Marcus)
(Steps in between the two)Whoa now you two! Artos. Artos.
Nobody thinks you are not a good soldier, do they?
(looks at Marcus)
MARCUSOf couse not. You're a fine soldier...maybe a bit
ARTOSWell no one ever informed me that ignorance was a
requirement for being a Roman soldier.
MARCUSOk, ok you're right, I'm sorry. Anyway let's cast
lots for who gets the first crack at him.
TRELLIUSIt makes no difference to me. Artos?
MARCUSAh theres nothing like that first strike accross
(Takes a few practice swings with the cat o' nine tails)
You sure you don't want to toss for it?
ARTOSNo Marcus you may have the first swing. There is no
shortage of criminals here. I get my share of ... (Shakes his head) virgin
(Centurian enters All three salute)
MILENIUSMarcus, and Trellius, you two go prepare the
flogging post. Artos will join you momentarily.
(Marcus and Trellius exit stage left)
MILENIUSArtos, what do you know about this man Jesus?
ARTOSLike I said earlier, he's a teacher of the Jewish
religion. Quite extraordinary I'm told.
MILENIUSExtraordinary? In what way?
ARTOSThis is all hearsay of course. I've never seen him
actually, but he evidently has taught in their temple with boldness that angers
the Jewish establishment, and with such wisdom that they can never out debate
him over matters of Jewish law.
MILENIUSThat's all you know of him?
ARTOSAs I said, it's all hearsay. They say that he
speaks with the authority that only a god would posess. they say that...
MILENIUSYes yes I know that. What of the healings?
ARTOSIt's all hearsay. Some say it's mass hysteria, or
simple tricks put over on simple beggars. Forgive my asking sir, but why are you
asking these questions of me?
MILENIUSI'm curious that's all. Do you think you are the
only one in all of Romes Legions that's ever taken an interest in local events?
ARTOSForgive me sir but usually you are much more...how
do I say... detatched. And now you just seem well very much concerned about a
simple Jewish prisoner.
MILENIUSMy wife's brother is Centurian at the post in
Capernaum. He told me a remarkable story. You see he had this favorite servant
who had served him well. The servant was quite ill almost at his death when some
of the local people told him of a great healer who was headed to town. He was
already familiar with the work of this man; and the physicians had given up on
healing this servant. I don't understand why, but he says that he knew in his
very being that this man could heal his servant. He went out and met him outside
of town. He was very discreet about it, as it wouln't do for a Roman Centurian
to be seen asking for such help from a Jew. Well, my brother-in-law swears that
this man spoke a word from over a mile away, and before he returned home his
servant had risen from his death bed, and was healed of his sickness. The man's
name was Jesus.
ARTOSThere are many such stories circulating in
Jerusalem right now. I've studied these people for three years, and for the life
of me, I can't understand why they are so bent on this mans destruction.
MILENIUSMy brother-in-law has talked of resigning his
post to follow this man. Can you imagine that? I've warned him to keep such talk
quiet. Well it looks now like there'll be no one left to follow.
ARTOSOh he'll heal up in a few months. He'll probably
stay clear of Jerusalem though.
MILENIUSI've received further orders. He's to be
(Artos just stares in disbelief)
MILENIUSI can get you excused from this detail.
(Walks away to stage left)No sir. I'm a soldier.
(Lights fade with Milenius standing alone)
(Lights up with milenius in the same position. The three
soldiers enter from stage left. Trellius is holding circle of thorns)
TRELLIUSCome on Marcus, we're going to have a bit more
fun with this one. You too Artos! What do you say.
ARTOSI'll pass thank you.
(Grabs Marcus' arm)Marcus You'll enjoy this. The rest of
the men are joining in with us.
(Jerks arm away, and just stares out into space.)
MILENIUSLet him be.
(Trellius exits stage right)
(Marcus continues to stare into space. Artos and Milenius
approach from either side.)
ARTOSMarcus are you alright?
(Stares at his hands)His blood got on me.
MILENIUSWhat are you saying?
(Continues to stare at his hands)His blood...
ARTOSWhat about his blood?
MARCUSIt's on my hands!
(Puts hand on Marcus' shoulder)It's on my hands too. Why
are you so upset?
(Jerks away)You don't understand! He didn't scream. I hit
him as hard as I could. He opened up like ripe fruit, his blood splattered on
me! He wouldn't scream.
ARTOSWe've had strong ones before. What's the problem?
I've never seen you like this.
(Drops to his knees)I hit him so hard that my shoulder
nearly tore out of it's socket. I couldn't make him scream. After Trellius had
finished, and they were leading him away, he looked me in the eyes. I tried to
look away, but I couldn't. He looked at me and his blood was on me. Something in
me wanted to explain that I was only doing my duty, that I was sorry. I tore his
back to pieces, and he looked at me as if he knew me. I couldn't even close my
eyes to stop looking at his face. He looked at me and I felt...I felt he looked
at me with pity! With pity! We nearly flogged him to death, and he looked on me
with pity. It's not right, something's wrong with this. He can't be real.
ARTOSYou've got to be imagining that. He was in no shape
to pity anyone but himself.
MARCUSI'm telling you it's just like I said. He had pity
in his eyes. The blood was running down his body, and he had no fear in his
(Stands up faces Milenius)I don't understand what's
happening to me sir. I've always enjoyed this duty. I've flogged hundreds of
prisoners. After all someone had to do it... I always derived pleasure from it.
(Looks down)I don't think I can do this any more.
(Turns to Artos)Didn't you see Artos? This one was
different. This was wrong! Why did we do this?
ARTOSWhy? You spoke not an hour ago of duty, and Roman
MARCUSHe was no robber; no murderer. What laws of Rome
did he break?
ARTOSYou know that we just carry out sentence. We don't
pass it. The Jews themselves turned this man over.
MARCUSYou know these Jews Artos. Why? Why did they send
him for such treatment?
ARTOSI could stay here all day explaining and still you
may not understand. I'm not sure I do. You should rest. You're over tired that's
(Walks toward stage right)I've got to prepare for
execution detail. You'll get over this with rest. Don't let this Jesus get to
you my friend. He is only a Jew afterall, just a Man.
(Shouts after him)Just a man? Are you certain Artos? Is
he just a man?
(Drops to his knees and shouts to the sky)What have I
(Turns to Milenius)Is he just a man, Sir? With all
respect sir, I cannot go on with this execution detail. If it means my
punnishment then so be it.
MILENIUSYou need some rest, son. I can fill in for you
at the execution. You go back to your quarters.
MARCUSThank you sir. I will make up for this.
MILENIUSJust be ready for your next shift.
(Turns to leave, takes three steps, stops and turns to face
Milenius, but doesn't say anything.)
(three second pause)What is it Marcus?
MARCUSIs he just a man?
(Gives some thought before answering)My brother in law
would say no, he's not. But for myself, I'm afraid I have no answer. Go now and
(Exits stage right)
(Stage is dark. Voice over reads Matthew 27:33-51.
(Milenius is on the ground, rises to one knee as the light slowly fades in. SFX:
shadow of cross falls accross him.)
(Removes helmet, and lets it fall from his hand)Surely
this was the son of God.
© 1996 Robert J. Lee
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