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Page 3 of 16

Scene 1 (cont'd)

The Roman Procurator! By the grace of our Imperial Lord,
Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea!

(ENTER Pilate, preceded by lictors, attended by Romans in togas. FANFARE. He proceeds to the throne, where he stands. The general noise and hubbub subsides and all face the throne.)
Soldiers of the Empire, tribunes, centurions,
My men.
You know what tension strong as chains
And palpable as murderous choking hands
Encompasses Jerusalem. Intrigue and villainy,
Twin furies of this land from ancient times,
Conspire to thwart our peaceful government.
You guard the Roman Eagle in an alien land,
Steeped in an alien creed, whose cult
Combines strange rites with stranger superstitions.
Their priests are politicians, adepts in deceit,
Who use religion for fanatic aims.
To meet the menace of the paschal feast
You will employ yourselves as I shall now proclaim.
The western gate that leads to Bethlehem,
Longinus, you shall guard with fifty men.
And Marcus, your patrol will have as bounds
The eastern wall as much as lies between
The Camel Drivers’ Gate and Kedron brook.
Your mission, Barca, calls for skill and tact
The Temple and its precincts be your haunts.
Commingle with the people; test their minds
To see which way the rabble is inclined;
Use all your art to win their confidence.
(To Spurius)
You, Spurius Naso, I mean to delegate
For special duties as our palace tribune.
The eye of Rome is turned upon your work
Be zealous to win glory and good fame
Before our Emperor; for in fair Rome
The flower-decked tree of honour doth not lack
The timely fruits of furtherance.
As Romans I command you to fulfill
These orders, knowing each must be prepared
To render due account of their discharge.
(Saluting bust of Tiberius)
Ave Imperator Auguste!

(EXEUNT Pilate and lictors. Original group reforms.)
Black evil dog his steps!
I hope your ‘special duties’ don’t o’ertax
Your strength!
Not so loud!
I’d rather far
Be sent unarmed to face a howling mob
Of mad-brained Hebrew rioters alone,
Then stay the household lackey of that prig!
Great news a tribune serves at Pilate’s table
And fills the running goblets for his guests!
By Mars, I’d give him hemlock in his cups!
Reject this random talk. Pilate’s not a fool
To cross a man whose mind and hand he needs.
Condemn not rashly purposes concealed
Till you have learned how you must be employed.
How faithfully you echo Pilate’s speech!
‘Employed’ is a term that’s made for slaves;
But I’m no slave and he is not my master.
Ten years I served Germanicus and Drusus;
I marched and fought and bled and laughed at death
While he was learning Greek and writing verse!
And now he treats me as his palace hireling.
If you were men I’d ask for your support,
But that your native manhood is so cowed
In servile subservience to this wretch.
Take back that taunt and hold your babbling tongue!
We’re no more cowards than you, but we have sense
To see the most expedient course.
Is it safe to follow such a weakling’s lead?
Not only safe, but pledged by our legion oath;
For oft through lips unworthy, duty speaks.
Enchain your jealous anger this short space
And afterwards convey your plea to Rome.

(Trumpet sounds)
What sound is that?
The temple trumpet blows
To herald in the Jewish evening prayer.
Let’s to our posts.
Our troops stand ready marshalled.
Farewell Spurius.
Be kind to Pilate!

(EXIT Barca and Marcus)
(lingering with Spurius while the other two move off)
‘Tis dangerous to brood on recent pain.
Shake off your frown and show a franker face.
Kind fortune attend your ways.

(EXIT Longinus leaving Spurius brooding
Trumpet sounds again.)

First Interval

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