Constantine at the Milvian Bridge I

Posted: July 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

[based on the manuscript of Jacob Watts left with Audrey Helen Watts in 1954 or 1955; some original dialogue in German, translated by M.E. Ensminger c. 1970 – JE, Stone Ridge, New York, July 2010]

Screen reads:

The great ideas of mankind are those that have all but destroyed the civilizations in which they occurred.

Alfred North Whitehead

1 XX EXT – ROMAN CAMP. BEFORE DAWN.

Men are sharpening and repairing weapons, eating pieces of bread, talking, looking from time to time towards a large tent with a red sheet hanging over the entrance. Occasionally someone enters or leaves the tent but each time it is not the commanding general and the men look away, sometimes showing their disappointment that the general has not yet spoken to them about the battle they have been anticipating for more than a month.

There is light in the east and the men look occasionally towards the hill beyond which the sun will soon begin to rise.

Two soldiers come out of the tent and pull the red sheet aside. The men sense that the general is ready and they begin standing up, moving towards the platform from which he will speak.  Some of the commanders try to form their units.  Others let the men assemble on their own, not willing to disappoint them.

Torchbearers come out of the tent.  Now all the commanders begin to form the centuries. The troops are experienced and they move efficiently and without friction. Also without much energy which they know they must conserve for the battle.

CONSTANTINE comes from the tent and walks towards the platform. He follows men carrying torches and is also followed by men carrying torches but he does not seem aware of them, as if his only concern is something inside himself. He is a tall, heavy but not fat man in his late thirties.

Constantine waits as four of the torch bearers place the torches on wells on the four corners of the platform, and then come back down. Constantine will be alone before his men. It is a well rehearsed arrangement. None of the men speak to him but the last man down the steps of the platform nods at him. Constantine does not nod back but does look at the man before climbing the steps.  As he climbs, the troops that have assembled, going about a quarter of a mile in each direction, become silent. Constantine reaches the top of the platform and looks across the assembly before fixing his gaze forward where most of the men are standing.

CONSTANTINE

Officers, soldiers. You will face the greatest army in the world today. You know many of those you will fight. The scouts have reminded me again that this great army you will meet is larger than the one you are in. This is true. It has been true before and this time is more true than most of the times it was true before.

He looks in each direction. The army remains silent.

You have heard, as I have heard, that the omens are against us. The enemy, which is made up of our friends, controls the city of Rome and its temples. We control a few shrines we have passed on the road, shrines to local spirits that scare children and slaves. Not the great gods of Rome.

He looks into the eyes of some of the closer men.

You have heard, as I have heard, that the priests have offered sacrifices to each god in turn, and each god has savored the smell of the sacrifices and each priest has assured our enemies that they will win.

[There should be no sneer in the delivery of the line. Constantine is disturbed by the fact the sacrifices went well for Maxentius. Many of those listening will be more disturbed, but Constantine would rather that his men hear this from him than from rumors that he is trying to suppress the information.]

They will defeat us. Their gods announce it.

Many of you have been with me a long time. I do not wish to fight their gods. I do not have to. Their gods have already left their temples. It is not the gods who accept the sacrifices. It is the flies that are left in the temples after the gods have gone. The flies savor the meat of their sacrifices. The flies tell the priests that their army will win and ours will lose. Flies.

Some laughter. Constantine smiles.

You have heard, as I have heard, that the vestals have sung their song of victory. They have sung the song to our enemy. They have said that Rome will not be Rome if I win. If you win. We are not good Romans. Not good enough for this city. You have heard as I have heard.

They have sacrificed to all the gods at all the altars. But they did not sacrifice to one god. There is one god who has marched with us and not with them. One god who has given us victory every time we asked for it. And I ask for it now.

SOME SOLDIERS

Christos … Christos …

CONSTANTINE

Do you ask him for victory?

Many of the men do not realize that they have been asked a question by their commanding general, so the response is tentative in the first moments, but within seconds is much stronger, then becomes a stamping chant.

SOLDIERS

Victory…… Victory….. Victory … Vic … tor … y … Vic … tor  … y

The general raises his arms for silence. It is slow in coming.

CONSTANTINE

Not all of you kneel to the god to which I now kneel. Some of you do. You are all brothers. But I ask all of you to make the sign of this god now. The gods have left Rome. The gods stand ready to give us defeat. You have heard as I have heard. But one god has not been asked to grant victory to our enemies … only to us. And he will grant victory to us. Tomorrow. The day after. The day after that. Victory!

Constantine speaks the word only once but the chant “Victory … Victory…” swells across the valley where the army is encamped. The men are now looking at each other proudly and are beginning to form their ranks. They return the general’s salute and as they do so they see him put his shield on the corner of the stand and cut it first one way and then the other, after which he holds up the shield to reveal the cross that he has cut into the leather embossing.

CONSTANTINE

I take the sign of the anointed, the sign of his death on the cross. The sign of the one god who has guided us here. I ask you also to make the sign of the cross on your shields.

The soldiers begin to cut their fronts of their shields in turn. Behind Constantine a large red flag is hoisted into the first rays of the morning sun. On one side is the Xi Rho symbol, the labarum, the first Christian flag.

CONSTANTINE

(pointing at the flag)

The sign of the cross, men.

SOLDIERS

Sign … of … the … cross… Sign… of … the cross… cross … cross …

CAMERA moves to the face of one of the subordinate commanders, THOMAS, who is among the senior commanders beside the platform.  Thomas is both a participant and narrator of the story [narrations will be in brackets].

[THOMAS]

Constantine the Great. That was not what they called him then, or for many years, but he probably earned it that day. Some say it was the day he found himself. Others say it was the day he forgot himself, never to find his soul again.

2 XX EXT. HARBOR. NIGHT

CAMERA crosses the harbor and a line appears on the screen:

five years earlier

The harbor is filled with ships of different sizes, lights on some of them, but there is little activity, only the sound of water. Above the harbor is a small temple towards which the CAMERA moves. The CAMERA moves inside the temple.

CONSTANTIUS, Augustus of the western Roman empire, father of Constantine, is inside the temple, along with DEXSIUS, his longtime friend. Constantius offers incense to a small painted statue of Zeus, which looks more like a statue of a philosopher than of a god. The statue rests on a square marble slab about a foot thick and about four feet wide and long.  The slab in turn rests on a wooden wagon made of boards about three inches thick. Though the wheels have been removed, it is apparent that Constantius travels with the statue. There is also a small cross before the statue. The cross is painted red.

Constantius bears some resemblance to Constantine, but looks more tired, paler and much older.  He is dressed in a long robe and after placing the incense stands with his arms outstretched, his head leaning back and his eyes open towards the ceiling. He is quiet as is Dexsius, the old man next to him, who does not hold the Roman pose of prayer, hands turned upwards, but instead looks forward, his hands clasped before him.

GUARD enters. Constantius is annoyed but knows that the guards would not have opened the door if it were not necessary.

GUARD

My lord.

CONSTANTIUS

My son?

GUARD

Yes.

CONSTANTIUS

Here?

GUARD

Just passed the first sentries.

CONSTANTIUS

Admit him when he arrives.

The guard pulls the heavy door shut behind him and the emperor and Dexsius are alone.

CONSTANTIUS

He will not know me, bishop of York.

Constantius looks at Dexsius who looks back at him but does not attempt to respond.

CONSTANTIUS

Can I trust him, Dexsius?

DEXSIUS

No, but you must.

CONSTANTIUS

Would you trust him? He called another his father.

DEXSIUS

That was to assure his escape.

Constantius looks at the god before him.

CONSTANTIUS

Most high and father of the anointed, do I trust him? Do the gods answer, Dexsius?

DEXSIUS

The gods do not usually respond to one who does not ask but to one who does.

CONSTANTIUS

(shrugs)

Yes.

The two men are silent again but hear the sound of horses outside. Both men turn towards the door, which opens and the same guard appears.

GUARD

Your son.

CONSTANTIUS

He is welcome.

Guard steps into the temple and stands to one side of the open door. Another guard enters and stands to the other side. After them comes the young Constantine. He is 32 or 33 years old and is wearing a woven riding suit with leather leggings and a thick but short riding cloak.  All the clothes are dark shades of brown except a yellow hat that Constantine carries. He bows.

CONSTANTINE

Augustus and commander.

CONSTANTIUS

Guards, leave us.

Guards go back out the door and close it behind them.

CONSTANTIUS

Come forward. I was your father before I was either Augustus or your commander. I’m not your commander unless you accept an appointment.

CONSTANTINE

Am I here to be offered an appointment?

It is a sharp question because the two men have not seen each other in ten years and Constantius does not take the bait. He has also not asked Constantine to kneel and kiss his hand. Constantine would perform the function but it would be to treat his son as a subject, not a son, and Constantius wishes to change their relationship.

CONSTANTIUS

Your journey was safe?

CONSTANTINE

After I escaped Severus.

CONSTANTIUS

I did not know if you could.

CONSTANTINE

If he has found me a threat it was because of your letter. He began to wonder if I was a traitor. You know that.

CONSTANTIUS

I do, but you were in danger even without my letter. Galerius would not elevate you because he believes that you could never be completely loyal. Besides, it would offend Severus.

CONSTANTINE

Then no one believes I will be completely loyal.

Constantius is determined not to become exasperated, but also will not beg his son for forgiveness. He looks down, takes a breath, then resumes.

CONSTANTIUS

I had to divorce your mother.

He looks at his son to see if his son will listen to his explanation of this statement.

Do not believe me, if you will not, but I know of what I speak. If I had not appeased Maximian I would not have been either Caesar or Augustus.  I would not have been alive and at that time neither would you have been.

Constantius is unable to see any reaction in his son.

May you not have to make the choices I have had to make.

CONSTANTINE

The burdens of power are great.

Constantius takes a breath, sensing that his son, though angry, is not without common sense.

CONSTANTIUS

To answer your previous question. I am appointing you field commander of this legion.

CONSTANTINE

I am to take this army to Britain without you?

CONSTANTINE

I will go with you. I will await you in York.  My presence there will calm the city and Britain south of Hadrian’s line.  You will go north and stop the rebellion. It will not be difficult. But it will attach the army to you. That will be needed.

Constantine has noted his father’s pallor. He now begins to wonder if he is sick. Constantius sees the suspicion on his son’s face.

CONSTANTINE

I am dying. I shit more blood than shit. It has been happening for a while.

CONSTANTINE

May you live long, Augustus.

His lips move after he says the word “Augustus” and Dexsius, who is somewhat closer to the son, tries to see if the word “father” was on the son’s lips. He is not sure.

CONSTANTIUS

Dine with me. I have the only decent cook in northern Gaul and he can be wakened.

CONSTANTINE

Yes.

CONSTANTIUS

We sail in the morning.

3 XX ROMAN NAVY SETTING OUT ACROSS ENGLISH CHANNEL

[THOMAS]

I first saw the tribune Constantine as we sailed to Britain. He was not on the trireme his father used. This was at his own insistence, against his father’s wishes.  He wanted to be with the men and was on the deck of one of the two great roundships Constantius had built to carry most of the army across the channel.  If he was trying to instill respect in the men, he should have gone on the trireme his father used. We thought his presence with us meant that Constantius considered his son a burden, even a bastard, not a worthy successor as some had supposed before the young man’s arrival.  Why else was he not allowed to travel with his father?  But his manner was not that of a bastard. He made no effort to befriend the men, but made no effort to avoid them.

I spoke to him the first time then though only a few words. I had heard he had served in Syria and had gone as far as the Parthian border and I thought he might know my first tongue, the dialect of south Syria. I stood near him, then said in that tongue:

THOMAS

(in Aramaic)

The weather was unusually sunny for this part of the world.

CONSTANTINE

(also in Aramaic)

Which part of the world?

THOMAS

(reverting to English [Latin])

Northern Gaul, Britain. They are all the same to me.

CONSTANTINE

How many of the men are Syrian?

THOMAS

Twenty.

CONSTANTINE

Judaeans?

THOMAS

Not all. Though I am.

[THOMAS]

I had overstepped my place and could not continue to address a tribune if he did not address me. I took this as unfriendly but as I came to know him I understood that he did not want to be seen as favoring any of the men, or as trying to ingratiate himself with them.

He was a very serious young man. Too serious I was inclined to think at the time.

4 XX ROMAN ARMY MOVING IN FOREST. AFTERNOON.

The army is led by two columns of men on horse followed by four much longer columns of infantry, then by mules pulling wagons of arms with men on horseback in between, then hundreds more auxiliaries on foot again four abreast, then more wagons but these of provisions and camp followers, and finally more cavalry, about fifty double columns.

Constantine and Dexsius are in the lead group of horsemen. Thomas is in the infantry behind him. CAMERA pulls back on the entire line and Hadrian’s wall appears above the trees in the distance.

[THOMAS]

The Picts lived beyond the wall that Hadrian built and were allowed their freedom as long as they stayed there. Some fires that summer had burned their hunting grounds and they had begun to pass over the wall, and in two months burned a dozen villages south of it, taking any food the inhabitants had and all the women who appealed to them. They killed the men and the children so that the women would not have anything to go back to. They attacked at night and returned north of the wall before dawn.

The regiments had been surprised when Constantius arrived in Britain. They were even more surprised when he remained in York and sent his son north with almost the entire of the force.  When we reached the wall Constantine asked to speak with the commander, a career centurion rather old for the responsibility.

Constantine has moved to the front of the legion and still on his horse is seen speaking to two sentries. Behind them comes the commander, NONNUS, who walks with something of a waddle and who looks angry.

NONNUS

Son of the Augustus. Welcome. There is no need to be complicated in your commands. I know my duty to the Augustus. I am the commander here. I open the doors for your force, close it behind you after you’ve passed through, open the doors again when you return, close them behind you.

Constantine looks at the man and dismounts. Dexsius dismounts behind him.

CONSTANTINE

That is not the full extend of the cooperation I expect, commander. What is your name?

NONNUS.

Son of Augustus, I’ll try to spare…. Nonnus.

Constantine lifts his hand to stop Nonnus from talking.

CONSTANTINE

You will address me as legionary commander before this force, Nonnus, though my regular rank is higher than that. That is my field status and my command supersedes yours.

Dexsius moves beside Constantine. Nonnus is angry and kicks the ground. He is contemplating further resistance but is troubled by the presence of Dexsius, known by all the troops to have the ear of Constantius.

NONNUS

Legion commander, then it be, I can spare only a few but spare I will what spare I can.

CONSTANTINE

How many of your guardpost commanders have Pict women, Nonnus?

NONNUS

Pict women? We have plenty of women if that’s what you and your men need.

Nonnus looks at his sentries to join his amusement.

CONSTANTINE

You are wasting time, Nonnus. How many of your men have Pict wives?

NONNUS

(still refusing to adopt an overly responsive tone)

A third or so.

CONSTANTINE

Summon them all here.

NONNUS

(raising his hands in exasperation)

Summon them all here? My wall will become a sieve.

CONSTANTINE

For each one summoned, two of my men will go to his station.

NONNUS

Summon them here? Then what?

CONSTANTINE

Summon them here. Now.

NONNUS

But?

Nonnus looks to Dexsius for help, but seeing that he will not get it, he begins to speak the names of about fifteen commanders while looking at SENTRY.

Smynka, Rillas, Rillas’s brother what’s the name, Went, Winter, who else? Ruthmin, Ruthmin’s son, Little Ruthmin, Horik, Joyen, who else?

SENTRY

Willem. The other Went.

NONNUS

The other Went killed his woman after she went back to the woods.

CONSTANTINE

Bring him. Find all of them and have them here before the sun sets. Explain nothing to them.

NONNUS

What could I explain to them? I’ve been told nothing to explain to them.

CONSTANTINE

With reason. Now have my men fed, Nonnus.

NONNUS

Feed your men? You have an army. We have twenty men at the gate.

CONSTANTINE

Very well. We will feed your men. You need only provide the drink, which you have enough of I’m sure. My centurions will select the men to go with your men on this task.

[THOMAS]

So it was that the gate commander performed the will of the younger man whom he so obviously despised. Perhaps Dexsius knew what Constantine was thinking, but none of the rest of us did.

5 XX CAMP BESIDE HADRIAN’S WALL. DUSK

The camp is lit by torches but there is still light in the western sky. The men who have Pict women are sitting around a large fire and are drinking from horn cups. Most of them are already drunk. Those who are not can see that they have been surrounded by soldiers from the legion that has just arrived. CAMERA moves beyond them towards a building beside the large gate in the wall. The building is built against the wall and the roof slopes away from it. It has doors on the side towards the gate. Inside it Constantine is standing with five centurions and Dexsius. They are standing over a large map made of sections of parchment.

CONSTANTINE

We cannot leave the men on this side. We have to go through now. There were twelve gates under the command of the men out there but only three of them were right together to the west, and two more were together further down. The Picts are coming through one of these sections. I’d suspect the further one most because Nonnus says those two can’t be seen from any of the other gates, but I could be wrong. The nearer one leads to a fast road so it could just as well be that one. We’ll divide the men in half. Ninnius? Xenodorus?

NINNIUS and XENODORUS

Commander.

CONSTANTINE

When you see three lamps casting light above you, you have reached your position. If you see two lamps one going up while the other goes down, five counts each way, then move towards the other. If you see both go up and down, five counts each way, come back to the main gate. The signals will have to be relayed so it will take a quarter of the hour. Do not attack before you join together.

XENODORUS

What if they flee?  Are we to replace the unit moving out?

CONSTANTINE

Do not follow. Without an engagement it will be a trap. Even with an engagement it could be a trap. Either way I will bring a larger force towards you from here.

[THOMAS]

I commanded the unit that went to the further gates that Constantine thought were vulnerable. We moved under the wall in increasing darkness using no torches, though the lamps in the relay stations above us occasionally cast light that became more useful as we went further west. There was no moon in the sky at dusk but the sky was clear at first and we could almost see the path from the brightness of the stars above. When we reached our position we knew because of the movement of the shadows cast by the lamps above us. We signaled other units below the wall with dog barks.

6 XX HADRIAN’S WALL. NIGHT

About twenty men under the wall wait for the lamps above them to move back into the relay stations. Thomas studies the field before them. A line of trees to their left descends gently to a small valley about two hundred feet before them. The right of the valley is bounded by a hill which is white because of the rocks that surround its base. The hill becomes steeper and the rocks darker towards the right, and the hill is crowned by dense forest. The men instinctively feel that no assault can come from the hill because it appears to be surrounded by the steep rock formation in every direction except on the south side where the men are huddled.  Also, there are many larger rocks in between the Romans and the top of the hill and a large force could not cross it.

THOMAS

(in a low voice to his men)

If an assault is to come, it will either come up from the valley or from over there. We will take positions behind the rocks. We can move to the east if the force is too large for us to delay.

PELLAUS leans forward.

PELLAUS

Sir, I am the lead?

THOMAS

Yes, Pellaus.

PELLAUS

How far out?

THOMAS

One hundred feet. Not more.

[THOMAS]

We spread out from the wall in the darkness, marking our distance by short barks. Most of us had done night maneuvers before and barked well enough. A few could not have fooled anyone.  What we didn’t know about was the fog, which came in heavy that night. Within an hour we couldn’t see the wall, the stars in the night sky, or anything, even the lamps in the relay stations. Still, we would be able to hear war cries from our comrades further west, who must also be in fog.

Time passes. Thomas watches the men near him to see that they remain awake. Then Thomas sees a fire from the hill to the right, where he had not expected anything because of the rock formation.

THOMAS

(whispering to the second in command)

We’re going to be cut off. We can’t move east.

Thomas and his men watch the pitch torches coming towards them.

THOMAS

Wait until they’re close enough to see us. We must know their strength.

PICT VOICE

Cabas!

[THOMAS]

It was as Constantine had expected. The Picts were looking for a reception. I saw the first of them and I remember I was frightened. His face was black with coal and from his long white hair hung the head of a bear which rested on his shoulder and seemed to almost give him two heads. He was naked except for leather leggings. He was thirty feet to our right. Behind him was a man holding a torch, which had so much pitch that I thought it might expose some of my men even from fifty feet. There were five more behind the torchbearer, but I could not see any behind them.

PICT VOICE

Cabas anwis na! Cabas!

SECOND PICT VOICE

Cabas san na?

[THOMAS]

They also could not see well in the fog.

When Thomas sees that the Picts will soon stumble into his men he draws an arrow and shoots the torchbearer.  His men kill the rest of the Picts.

[THOMAS]

(barks four times)

I signaled that the dead Picts should be pulled towards us. We could not hide them well but could at least keep them from being on a path other Picts might take. Because there were none behind them I knew they were scouts, not an advance party.

The night becomes very quiet again.

[THOMAS]

At the end of the second watch nothing more had happened and the fog began to lift. We could see the wall again and see the relay station. Two lamps were going up and down together.  Then they stopped. Then began again, five counts together.

THOMAS

(whispering)

Towards the main gate.

7 XX EXT – MAIN GATE OF HADRIAN’S WALL. DAWN

[THOMAS]

We had missed the battle.  Twenty Picts had been taken prisoner. One of them was brought before Constantine and Nonnus as I was making my report to Constantine. The prisoner was old and I did not believe he could have been a fighter, but Nonnus seemed very agitated on seeing the captive and began yelling at him in the Pict language none of us could understand.

NONNUS

Cabas winsin Cabas?

CONSTANTINE

Nonnus, what are you saying to this man?

NONNUS

I know him. Cabas winsin Cabas?

[THOMAS]

It may have been a question but was also partly accusation.

PRISONER

(shaking his head in denial)

Na na.

[THOMAS]

Whatever the prisoner said, it pushed Nonnus beyond the breaking point.

Nonnus pushes the prisoner backwards, kicks him, and is about to fall upon him when two of Constantine’s men prevent any further assault by pulling Nonnus off the prisoner.

CONSTANTINE

You will tell me what this is about, Nonnus. You will tell me now.

NONNUS

He is my wife’s brother. He swore to me his clan was not part of these raids.

CONSTANTINE

Your wife’s brother?  You are one of the men with a Pict wife?

NONNUS

She is not my favorite.

CONSTANTINE

That is not what I asked.

NONNUS

I didn’t think it mattered any more.

CONSTANTINE

If you fail to respond to a command, you have disobeyed a command

NONNUS

Field commander, she means little to me any more.

CONSTANTINE

(ignoring the infraction for the moment)

His clan is part of this?

NONNUS

His clan is all of this. He would not be here if his clan was not first clan in tonight’s attack, wherever it was to be.

CONSTANTINE

You know where the rest of his men will be?

NONNUS

Yes.

CONSTANTINE

We can go there now?

NONNUS

They will not gather again until night falls again.

CONSTANTINE

Can we find some of them now?

NONNUS

Not enough. They’ll send warnings by hitting the hollow trunks. It’s two hours ride from here, more on foot, where they will gather.

CONSTANTINE

Won’t they be warned anyhow?

NONNUS

I think not, legionary commander. I think not. They will be surprised he’s not with them but they do not travel in large groups. It makes them too easy to catch. Not by us but by their enemies from even further north. At night they travel in small groups and we got all of his mates thanks to your commands, field commander.

CONSTANTINE

(showing some disgust at Nonnus)

Tonight then.  And you had better be right in what you say.

NONNUS

(bowing slightly in the first signs of fear at Constantine’s voice)

Field commander.

8 XX HADRIAN’S WALL. DUSK.

The sky is in last light as the west when the Romans go through the gate. The road that leads them north is soon wide enough only for men to go two by two, and horses single file.  There are torches every fifty feet but not closer. Men guide themselves by what they can see in front.

[THOMAS]

Nonnus nearly killed his second wife that day for helping her brother and had left orders with his men to execute her if he did not return.

CAMERA follows the lead unit as the road descends into thicker and taller trees and it is soon so dark that more torches must be lit. The horses can no longer be ridden because of the low branches. The men pass several large trees to the trunks of which dead men are nailed.

CONSTANTINE

Picts?

NONNUS

Not most of the dead. The unransomed from the tribes protected by us south of the wall.

CONSTANTINE

How long have we been protecting them this well?

NONNUS

This has never stopped, my lord.

CONSTANTINE

Why are they cut open?

NONNUS

For their hearts.

CONSTANTINE

Taken for their god?

NONNUS

Just food.

9 XX FOREST GIVES WAY TO OPEN FIELDS. MOONLIGHT

NONNUS

We will have to leave the road if we are to surprise them.

CONSTANTINE

What are the chances of our surprising them even if we leave the road?

NONNUS

Maybe half.

CONSTANTINE

How much will it slow us down?

NONNUS

An hour.

CONSTANTINE

We stay on the road.

10 XX TOP OF A HILL. MORE HILLS IN THE DISTANCE. STILL MOONLIGHT.

NONNUS

The women will be first.

CONSTANTINE

Archers?

NONNUS

Some. Darts, spears. Knives, dropping from trees.  We will see some soon.

Constantine and several men instinctively look at a nearby tree.

11 XX BETWEEN TWO HILLS. TREES CLOSER TO THE ROAD. LESS MOONLIGHT.

An arrow hits Constantine in the chest but bounces off his cuirass.  The men look up the side of a hill and see some women moving backwards, keeping their fronts towards the Romans. The women appear to be naked but are nearly black.

CONSTANTINE

(to an infantryman beside his horse)

Hand it to me.

(looks at the short arrow)

I’ve never seen anything this small.  Can it ever hurt?

NONNUS

It’s poisoned.

CONSTANTINE

(looking closely at the tip)

Why didn’t we see them until they ran away?

NONNUS

They’re painted in front with tar. Not in back. It’s so they won’t run if they’re close.  They know they’ll die if they can be seen from behind.

WOMEN IN FOREST

(high pitched calls similar to ululation)

CONSTANTINE

(to archers behind him)

Aim for their voices.

The first two volleys miss any living target, but in the third volley they hear a cry.

CONSTANTINE

(to infantrymen)

Find her. Be careful.

Three infantrymen crouch and move forward against a line of rocks.

NONNUS

We should not stop, commander.

12 XX A MINUTE LATER. STILL LESS MOONLIGHT BECAUSE OF FOG.

The advance units have reached an open ground and spread out to protect the commanders. The three infantrymen return carrying a dead woman.  She has an arrow wound in her stomach though the arrow has been extracted.  Her throat has been cut.

CONSTANTINE

(seeing her throat is cut)

You shouldn’t have killed her.

INFANTRYMAN

Not us, commander.

NONNUS

She couldn’t run and didn’t want to be a burden. Even more, she didn’t want to be captured.

The body is that of a tall blond woman no more than twenty. She is completely naked except for leggings and arm sheaths and painted black in front.  Nonnus turns her over. Her back is not painted.

NONNUS

No mark on the back.  She died with honor.

CONSTANTINE

Why do the women attack first?

NONNUS

They get first chance to eat our hearts. They bear with the blood of their victims. Babies with mother who have eaten hearts are the strongest.

CONSTANTINE

When will the men fight?

NONNUS

We’re two miles from their hill. We have to go around another wood, so we’re really about four miles.

CONSTANTINE

There’s no way through the wood?

NONNUS

It’s a burial ground.

CONSTANTINE

Is there a way through it?

NONNUS

Yes.

CONSTANTINE

(with exasperation)

Are you afraid of their spirits, Nonnus?

NONNUS

I’ll have to lead.  I’m the only one here who’s ever gone through it.

13 XX FOREST. LIGHT FROM TORCHES.

There are baskets hanging from the trees. The men, even the Romans feel nervous, as if the spirits will protect the place.

14 XX EDGE OF FOREST. NO MOONLIGHT, NO TORCHES, VERY DIM FIRELIGHT ACROSS THE TOP OF THE HILL BEFORE THE ROMANS.

The Romans have spread out inside the forest and have moved up to the edge of the clearing before the hill.

CONSTANTINE

(quietly to Thomas)

Archers begin.

THOMAS

(louder, first in one direction then the other)

Archers begin. Archers begin.

Flocks of arrows hit rocks on the hill, throwing off sparks, others hit trees, sprouting flames which usually do not catch but which give momentary images of Pict women and children in the branches.

CONSTANTINE

Another volley.

THOMAS

Another volley. Another volley.

The second volley reveals that the Pict men have moved out onto the rocks and are preparing to attack.

CONSTANTINE

Straight arrows. Stagger lines.

THOMAS

Straight arrows. Stagger lines. Straight arrows. Stagger lines.

The onslaught comes. Rocks fly past the heads of the Romans and some are hit. A sea of naked pitch-covered Picts descends towards the edge of the forest.

NONNUS

We’ll be caught with no place to fight if we don’t move.

CONSTANTINE

Advance. Infantry forward pikes.

THOMAS

Advance. Advance. Infantry forward pikes. Infantry forward pikes.

The Roman infantry barely clears the edge of the forest with time to raise shields and put pikes forward and some men get caught in the brush and are killed by the Picts. Constantine moves into the second line holding a shield against Thomas’s shield.  Both men draw swords and fight hand to hand when the line before them collapses.

CONSTANTINE

Support forward.

THOMAS

Support forward. Support forward.

Light infantry comes through the first line, finally tipping the battle for the Romans.

15 XX TOP OF THE HILL. BATTLE OVER. ONE THICKET OF BRUSH BURNING.

Constantine inspects bodies of Picts, many of whom have killed themselves.

CONSTANTINE

(to ADJUTANT, a young but upper class soldier)

Reports?

ADJUTANT

Twenty eight dead.  Twenty three infantry.

CONSTANTINE

I’ve never seen men throw so hard.  Much less women.

ADJUTANT

Hadrian stopped for a reason, commander.

CONSTANTINE

(nods, then to Nonnus)

How do we keep their spirits from rest?

NONNUS

They will haunt us, commander.

CONSTANTINE

(looks at Nonnus, the look demanding an answer)

NONNUS

They nail anyone who has harmed one of their children to a tree.

CONSTANTINE

Nail all these to trees.  Including any adults that are still alive.

NONNUS

This is sacred ground, commander.

CONSTANTINE

Then they will know we do not fear their gods.

NONNUS

(shakes his head)

CONSTANTINE

You heard the command.

NONNUS

(finding one of his own soldiers)

Nail them.

[THOMAS]

We crucified more than a hundred, seven still alive. They were pierced in their bellies so that their deaths would not be prolonged and so that we would not have to post sentries.

Scene ends with a soldier putting a pike into the side of a woman.

16 XX NIGHT. MAIN GATE AT HADRIAN’S WALL.

Action follows [THOMAS]’s description.

[THOMAS]

That night they attacked the main gate after our return but we were ready for them.  We put oil in troughs a hundred feet north of the gate and lit it after the first assault. They were still not easy for us to see with the black pitch coating the fronts of their bodies. It was like fighting ghosts. We killed nearly three hundred. So many that we didn’t have enough wood to burn them all and had to send a party north to gather more branches. The fires burned well into the day and we could hear women wailing in the hills to the north.  There were no more attacks.  There were over two hundred taken as slaves, mostly young men and boys, but some girls.  Constantine sent the captives to Gaul, fearing that if they remained on the island they would remember who defeated them and breed more revolution.

We returned to York where Constantine waited for his father to die.

17 XX EXT – LARGE ROMAN VILLA. CLOUDY SKY.

CAMERA moves across dark sky and down to the Roman villa, settling on a window. (Glass is translucent at this time, but wavy images and light are visible through it.)

18 XX INT – LARGE BEDROOM.

Constantius rests on a large dining couch. He is sipping from the ladle held before him by a slave. Five physicians stand around the bed along with Dexsius.  Constantine is sitting on the other side of the bed.

[THOMAS]

Constantius hated physicians but had five of them by the time he was on his deathbed. One Roman, two Greek but of different traditions, one Egyptian who insisted that his art was not tainted by the Greek school in Alexandria, and one Persian.  It was probably good that this gathering of medical nations could barely communicate since otherwise they would have understood each other’s insults. I personally thought the cures conflicted and would have killed him if the disease hadn’t.

Of his son, some have written that it was the way he led us into battle in the north that bred our loyalty, but for me it was the way he waited on his father. He showed no interest in the physicians, and never did put much faith in them, for himself or anyone else.

CONSTANTIUS

(to slave feeding him)

No more.

(to everyone)

I wish to be alone with my son.

Everyone else leaves the room.

CONSTANTIUS

I do not have much time.  I overhear the physicians disputing.  Two days is the best guess.

CONSTANTINE

I do not listen to physicians.

CONSTANTIUS

(knowing Constantine has received letters from the palace of Diocletian since his return to York)

You are young enough not to need them.  You have heard from your mother?  How is your son?

CONSTANTINE

She is well. He is well.

CONSTANTIUS

Does she still listen to the Christians?

CONSTANTINE

Yes.

CONSTANTIUS

How did she avoid the sacrifices?

CONSTANTINE

She didn’t. She stood there with her eyes closed and repeated a prayer to Lord Christos over and over.  I was afraid Diocletian would see her lips move and make her open her eyes.

CONSTANTIUS

(laughs)

She was always smarter than I was. I would not have divorced her had there been a choice.

CONSTANTINE

(dismissively)

I was with Diocletian for three years. I know these things.

CONSTANTIUS

I assured your appointment.  I could not have assured anything had I been married to your mother.

CONSTANTINE

(showing more annoyance)

I did not ask for apologies.

CONSTANTIUS

I hope you will do as well by your son.

CONSTANTINE

My first wife died.  I would not have put her away for my convenience.

CONSTANTIUS

(refusing to argue)

You will have to remarry to cement one alliance or another.

CONSTANTINE

Did you want everyone out of the room to discuss my marital prospects?

CONSTANTIUS

No.

(takes a breath)

The troops will hail you as Augustus when you announce my death.

CONSTANTINE

I assume that it will be up to Galerius to choose a new member of the college.

CONSTANTIUS

He assumes that.  But he has bigger headaches than Britain.  Do not accept the acclamation.  Leave the podium and refuse the salute.  Send a letter to Galerius telling him that my army has arrested you and will not let you out of this house until you are declared their Augustus.

CONSTANTINE

They will bar the doors?

CONSTANTIUS

They liked you.  Even Nonnus liked you.  He never liked me.  The Picts are afraid of you now.  You can move the wall further north when you have the time.  I do not think you will have the time.

CONSTANTINE

What will Galerius say to my letter?

CONSTANTIUS

He will make you Caesar of Gaul, Spain and Britain.

CONSTANTINE

This is arranged?

CONSTANTIUS

I know how he thinks.  Also, Maxentius will take Rome, if he hasn’t already. Galerius hates Maxentius. He thinks he’s incompetent. He doesn’t like you either, but he thinks you’re competent. He can’t fight both of you so he’ll fight Maxentius.  He’ll send Severus to do it.  He won’t give you supreme power but he’ll make you Caesar.  That’s a guess but a good one.

CONSTANTINE

Will I have to join the fight against Maxentius?

CONSTANTIUS

Try to avoid it.  Maxentius will see you as a potential ally.  If Severus loses, Maxentius will look for other enemies besides you.  Avoid war as long as you can.  The troops may acclaim you, but not all are ready to die for you yet.

19 XX FIELD BESIDE THE VILLA. DAY.

The field is an exercise yard for horses. There is a dusting of snow on the dirt but no wind. Constantine and Thomas are riding around the edge of the field. They wear woolen coats and leggings and are not cold.

[THOMAS]

He talked to me sometimes. At first it was just that he wanted to practice the Syrian tongue.  There were many Greeks in the force, mostly Macedonians, southern Gauls and some Italians, a few Spaniards, but there were only twenty Syrians and I was the senior in rank.

CONSTANTINE

Surely you could have enlisted on the eastern borders, Thomas?

THOMAS

Yes, general. But my father said I would not become a good soldier in the east. Then if my commander moved to the west and fought another Roman commander for empire, I would die because I would be too soft.

CONSTANTINE

Do I appear to be soft to you, Thomas? I was trained in the east.

THOMAS

Please no, general!

CONSTANTINE

I play with you, Thomas.  Perhaps there is some softness in the east.  Not as soft as in Egypt. Those soldiers have never fought. Not in this age, not in the last. Not for long before that.

THOMAS

The Egyptians are soft.

CONSTANTINE

Were your ancestors in Judaea, Thomas?

THOMAS

Once they were.

CONSTANTINE

The Judaeans are very good fighters. But some will not fight on the seventh day.

THOMAS

My people always fought on the seventh day. So my father told me.

CONSTANTINE

The Persians will not fight in certain places. If you find an enemy soldier in one of these places, and he is a soldier, he will give you his sword and ask that you fight for him. He will expose his neck to you. Have you heard of such things, Thomas?

THOMAS

No, commander.

CONSTANTINE

My father has the cross of the anointed Judaean man god.  Do you know why?

THOMAS

No.

CONSTANTINE

I think it reminds him of my mother.

THOMAS

(displaying some hope)

She was a Christian?

CONSTANTINE

She has been present at sacrifices.

THOMAS

I have been present at sacrifices without even knowing it, commander.  There are many temples in the agoras.

CONSTANTINE

Why does my father call Dexsius the bishop of York? I asked my father but he said only that Dexsius has been called that for a long time. There are no Christians in York or probably anywhere in this land.  What do you know of this?

THOMAS

Have you asked Dexsius?

CONSTANTINE

I don’t think I would ask Dexsius anything.  I’m not sure why.

THOMAS

I’ve never asked him anything either. I can only tell you what is said. He was a Christian long ago and once had a church in Egypt. During the time of Valerian there were persecutions, more than forty years ago.  Everyone in his church was executed, even his wife and children. I heard this from a veteran I met when I first came to Gaul.  The veteran said that the prefect let Dexsius live because he knew that all the other Christians would assume he had betrayed the church just because he had lived.  Dexsius was left free, but he could not stay where he was.  No one trusted him. He moved from place to place, making weapons, reading, talking, debating with philosophers, occasionally coming to a church after the persecutions stopped under Gallienus, but he would only come once or twice, then move on.  Somehow he met your father and they began to talk.  He has remained with him.

CONSTANTINE

Which one needs the other?  Or do they need each other?

THOMAS

I have wondered that myself, commander, many times I have wondered.

CAMERA goes into Thomas’s eyes for the following memory.

20 XX LARGE STABLE

The large stable building is devoid of horses. Three men, their hands bound behind their backs stand before a magistrate who sits on a seat that is elevated by having been placed on a stand that is usually used by a riding master in training horsemen of the Roman army. About ten soldiers in parade uniforms stand behind the accused. The CAMERA focuses on one, who is THOMAS’S FATHER.

[THOMAS]

During the persecutions of Diocletian my father was a Christian serving in Antioch. He had disavowed his faith to save himself and his wife, who would have also been killed had he not done so, and I suppose so that my brother and I would continue to have parents.

MAGISTRATE

(addressing one of the men)

GAIUS LIVILLOS of the Tenth. You have been asked if you accept the pernicious beliefs of those known as Christians and you have admitted that you do. You have done this despite my advice that you deny your involvement and desist from these practices. Do you continue to profess this mistake?

GAIUS LIVILLOS

(steps forward)

I do, commander. I go to my death knowing that I will be living in a greater mansion than any I have ever seen in Antioch or Rome or anywhere.

MAGISTRATE

I am not here to engage in philosophy with you, Livillos. The gods take the blood or not. I do not think they care any more than I do who bends the knee to them and who does not. Just say you will bend the knee and we will be done with this.

GAIUS LIVILLOS

Commander, you give me the greatest gift one man can give another and I will remember you for it until the end of days. I love you as I can love no other.

MAGISTRATE

(exasperated)

Man, this can wait for tomorrow if you will stop this foolishness. I do not wish to lose good men. What does it harm you to bend the knee? What?

GAIUS LIVILLOS

I have come here for my reward. I await it.

MAGISTRATE

You persist?

GAIUS LIVILLOS

Please let me go to my reward, commander. I beg you.

MAGISTRATE

Let the act be done.

Gaius is led forward, takes off his robe and puts his head on a block. The executioner, who wears a black mask, has to hack his neck twice to cut it off.

[THOMAS]

My father had bent the knee, but when I was old enough to enlist he persuaded the new commander to send a letter to Constantius asking that I be accepted into the army in Gaul. Constantius was known to have ignored the orders of persecution and my father hoped that I would not have to make the choice he had made. He may have thought that I would not have disavowed the anointed and suffered the fate of Gaius Livillos.  I would like to think that I would have kept my faith as Livillos had done, but I do not know. I never had to prove my faith. We were becoming too strong, though we did not know it yet.

21 XX VILLA AT YORK. NIGHT.

Constantius is is gasping for air.  His wife, Theodora, sits on the bed at his feet, making no attempt to touch him but looking kindly upon him. The physicians have given Constantius so much opium that he feels no pain, but is barely conscious.

[THOMAS]

Theodora arrived three days before her husband’s death. Some say that she did not want to come to Britain, but they are wrong. He had kept her away, not wanting her to watch him die. Some say that she wished to marry her husband’s eldest son, having learned that he would be elevated to the rank of Caesar and would be able to protect her own sons, half brothers to the new Caesar. This is not only wrong but a slander. She would not have been too old, it is true, but she had no passion left. Perhaps Constantius had satisfied her in this way, though that must have ended several years before.

Constantine was called to his side only minutes before the end.

CONSTANTIUS

Tell your mother that I never enforced the edict.

CONSTANTINE

I will tell her.

CONSTANTIUS

I had everyone in the cities assembled and I put one piece of incense on an altar before the temple of Caesar, or whatever temple they had.  Then I thanked everyone for coming and honoring the edict.  I said that there were no Christians in Gaul.  That’s what I told Diocletian.  Most of them didn’t even know they’d sacrificed.  I punished no one.  Galerius was angry but Diocletian didn’t want a fight with me, not over that.

CONSTANTINE

I will tell her.  Do you pray to the Judaean god now?

CONSTANTIUS

No.  He will decide what I’m worthy of.  I would speak to my wife, one last time.

CONSTANTINE

Go well, father.

22 XX EXT – PARADE GROUND, YORK. DAY.

The coffin of Constantius lies on a bier. The troops are assembled in parade formation.

[THOMAS]

Constantine gave his father’s funeral oration but it was written by the rhetor of the fallen Augustus and was silly as it was poetic.

CONSTANTINE

His shield lifted by the gods

Who smiled knowing that one of their equal would now dine with them

True descendant of the first august one

Neither outshining the other in the lasting firmament.

We alone are left behind.

(steps off the podium)

SOLDIERS

(first only a few, then more and more)

Augustus, Augustus, Augustus! Augustus!

Constantine walks towards the villa.

[THOMAS]

As Constantius had predicted, Galerius accepted Constantine into the imperial college, not as an Augustus, as the troops had asked, but with the lesser rank of Caesar. Constantius was also right that Maxentius, the son of the retired emperor Maximian, would declare himself a prince in Rome. But Galerius saw no room for another member of the college and told the Caesar in Milan, Severus, to take an army to Rome and defeat Maxentius.

The empire was at war, and Constantine held the balance of power. He used it wisely by joining neither camp, following the advice of his father. We returned to Gaul.

CAMERA shows Dexsius walking away from the funeral towards a road.  It is apparent that he will leave the story for a long time.

23 XX EXT – A PALACE. DAY

A carriage arrives before the palace. Constantine stands on the steps while a boy, CRISPUS, Constantine’s only son, about ten years old, and a teacher, PHILOSTRATUS, leave the carriage.

[THOMAS]

Constantine asked one favor of Galerius. That he grant safe passage to his mother and son, who had continued to live at the palace of Diocletian at Nicomedea.  Well before the carriage arrived, we had learned that Helena, his mother, divorced wife of Constantius, had refused to come to Gaul.

A boy comes out of the carriage, dressed very well.  He bows to his father who holds out his arms.  They hug, but very briefly. The boy does not seem to trust his father.

CONSTANTINE

Welcome to Gaul. Why did my mother remain in Greece?

CRISPUS

I do not know, father.

CONSTANTINE

Philostratus?

PHILOSTRATUS

She did not want to leave her friends, imperator.

CONSTANTINE

Diocletian is letting her worship the Judaean god openly?

PHILOSTRATUS

She is not subtle about it, imperator.

24 XX INT – KITCHEN. WELL LIT.

Constantine sits at a table with his son.

CONSTANTINE

This is my favorite place.

CRISPUS

(working up his courage to say something he thinks is important)

The Augustus Diocletian says it is a dangerous time for you. He says I would have been safer with him, but that he was only a private citizen now and would not keep me away from you.

CONSTANTINE

Did he say why it was a dangerous time for me?

CRISPUS

Because three emperors would try to get your army to join theirs.

CONSTANTINE

Did he say what I should do?

CRISPUS

He said you would ask me that so he said he wouldn’t tell me.

CONSTANTINE

The old fox, still faster than all the hounds.

CRISPUS

Are you in danger, father?

CONSTANTINE

Not as much as I was.

CRISPUS

Will I remain with you father?

CONSTANTINE

(wondering if his son lacks courage)

You will be safe here.

25 XX EXT – ROMAN CAMP. DAY

A force is passing the stockades of a permanent Roman camp along the Rhine. Constantine comes out of his tent to greet the new units.

[THOMAS]

We marched against the Franks that spring and chased them back across the Rhine. They were better fighters than the Picts and fought more like us, in daylight with formations under tiers of commanders, none of whom were women. It was before a battle across the Rhine that Constantine was first forced to consider the presence of Christians in his army.

UNIT COMMANDER

(from his saddle)

Caesar, we are two hundred twenty, sent by the Augustus Galerius.

CONSTANTINE

We have been expecting you.  Thomas here will see that your needs are met, and that you are properly housed.

UNIT COMMANDER

One of my centurions wishes to address the Caesar.

CONSTANTINE

Is this usual with your units?

UNIT COMMANDER

No.

CONSTANTINE

But you approve?

UNIT COMMANDER

(sighing)

It may save misunderstandings later.

CONSTANTINE

Very well.

UNIT COMMANDER

Lukaios, forward.

LUKAIOS rides from several ranks back, then dismounts and bows.

CONSTANTINE

Lukaios.  Are you Greek?

LUKAIOS

Hail, Caesar. I am sorry to impose.  I am Greek.

CONSTANTINE

Speak, Lukaios.

LUKAIOS

Caesar, I would have you know that I am one who calls himself a Christian, as are most of my men. It was perhaps why we were sent to fight with you, which we are most willing to do.

CONSTANTINE

You realize that there are standing orders that would permit, perhaps require me to execute you right now?

LUKAIOS

I do, my lord.

CONSTANTINE

Why do you flout such orders?

LUKAIOS

Because I fight with the knowledge that my lord in the heavens has prepared a more noble place for me than any I shall see on this earth. I do not fear death. Nor do those of my men who have heard the lord. We will gladly take the first line and be first over the wall in an assault.  Indeed we demand the opportunity.

CONSTANTINE

Then I need not punish you since your wish in this matter will be granted. If you live through the next battle I will know that the god you worship has power over events.

LUKAIOS

All power, my Caesar, as none other has.

CONSTANTINE

Do not despise the gods of this state, Lukaios?

CONSTANTINE

I do not despise what has no power.

CONSTANTINE

You have your wish, Lukaios. We shall discuss your god again if there is an opportunity.

[THOMAS]

This was a change for the few Christians who had served with Constantius and then Constantine in Britain. We had always confined our gatherings to the meal where we shared bread and wine and read the story of the anointed written by one Matthaios who walked with him. Though we had received letters from the church in Corinth, they were mostly personal letters to me. I would have never addressed an Augustus or Caesar as Lukaios had done. He frightened me almost as much as Constantine did.

Yet he lived.

26 XX OUTSIDE WALLED CITY. CLOUDY DAY.

The town is in Germania.  The walls are not as high as those of Roman towns and have numerous wooden house-like structures on top where masses of archers shoot arrows in waves at the Romans, who advance under tortoises of locked shields covered with hides. The Romans also use thirty long rage catapults that accurately hit one section of the wall destroying first the wooden housing above it then leveling much of the poorly constructed stonework so that a breach is formed about ten feet above the ground.

Constantine is on a tower between the two largest catapults.  Standing beside him is a WATCHER, a soldier with particularly good distance vision.  There is also the same adjutant that was present at the battle against the Picts.

CONSTANTINE

How soon the breach?

WATCHER

The ladders would expose only a foot and only one or two ladders at most.

CONSTANTINE

Wait for more.  At least one ladder at three feet, most at two.

WATCHER

Caesar.

CONSTANTINE

Their archers are good.  Are they all to the left?

WATCHER

(squinting)

Yes.

CONSTANTINE

Are they saving something on the right?

WATCHER

I can’t see anything.

CONSTANTINE

Adjutant?

ADJUTANT

I’d recommend a quick volley, different levels behind the wall.

CONSTANTINE

My preference. Pass the order.  Quiet. Keep the fifth shooting.

ADJUTANT

(leaning over and speaking down the side)

Change aim. Thirty to forty feet right. Deeper levels left to right. On commander’s signal. Fifth to keep shooting.

SOLDIER

(below, not seen but heard)

Change aim. First thirty, ten feet back, second thirty, twenty feet back, third forty, twenty to thirty back….

The catapults stop.  The winches make noises against the ropes as the platforms are adjusted quickly.

ADJUTANT

They think we’re going to aim for the archers.  They’re clearing the platform.

CONSTANTINE

Good.  Are we ready to aim?

ADJUTANT

(looking over the side)

No.

CONSTANTINE

They’re out of practice.

ADJUTANT

Ready now.  Fire?

CONSTANTINE

Yes.

ADJUTANT

(over the side again)

Fire two rounds.

SOLDIER (OS)

Two rounds. Quick.

They hear loud shouting and crying.

CONSTANTINE

A concentration of their force?  They were going to come out?

WATCHER

It appears so.  I can’t see any flames…. Now I do. Now I do.

CONSTANTINE

They were preparing oil?

They see flames shooting above the wall on the right side of their view.

WATCHER

We must have hit some of it.

CONSTANTINE

Go for the breach.

ADJUTANT

Breach command, forward.

SOLDIER (OS)

Breach command, forward. Ladders low, shields high.

CAMERA moves down to the field as advance units make way for the ladder carriers, each ladder under two shields and three rows of men, the middle men only carrying the ladders, those on the outside carrying shields aloft and locked.

Lukaios is seen leading one of the ladder units.

ADJUTANT

We will endanger the advance unit if we keep firing close to the breach.

CONSTANTINE

Keep firing until you see them over.

WATCHER

Commander.

CAMERA moves back to the field, to Thomas, who watches the gates opening from the inside and leads one of the first units into the city. There is a large fire burning to their right as they enter, where barrels of oil were ignited by Constantine’s catapult barrage. It is apparent that the Romans are quickly gaining control.

27 XX INT-LARGE ROOM. DAY.

Constantine is in a large stone room with a row of pillars down the center. Various of his officers are in the room.

CONSTANTINE

Thomas, did you know the Franks were capable of building something like this?

THOMAS

They always have one structure that seems almost Roman, or Greek. This was their first man’s.

Lukaios enters.

CONSTANTINE

I understand some of the enemy surrendered to you, so impressed were they by your bravery.

LUKAIOS

Some of my men were not as lucky as I was, Caesar. I would like to speak words over them tonight.

CONSTANTINE

We will not have time to make coffins.

LUKAIOS

The spirit will fly from the flames.

CONSTANTINE

The Christians who are Judaeans do not think the way you do, Lukaios.

[Judaeans then, as Jews now, reject cremation in funerary rites]

Constantine looks at Thomas, who nods.

[THOMAS]

It was the first time I acknowledged my Christianity to the emperor.

28 XX EXT- FIELD. MORNING.

Fifteen bodies wrapped in white linen lying against each other. Lukais steps onto a low command tower.  Constantine and Thomas stand behind him.

LUKAIOS

I speak to the soldiers who have died knowing that they have already found their place in the mansions of my lord’s father. They have fought the fight that those who taught us fought, and those who taught these before us. They have seen the light and followed it and I have seen the light in each one’s eyes and each one’s heart. I mourn for them but know that I mourn for my loss, not theirs, since they have shaken off the mortal flesh and stepped into the flesh that clothes them for the kingdom that we cannot see but which we also seek.

CAMERA moves across faces of the soldiers as Lukaios speaks.  Not all of this speech needs to be heard distinctly.

They knew of that kingdom and fought knowing that death would be a reward and not a punishment. I say farewell to each and say that I turn my heart towards that place they have reached that I may dine with them again. Paulos, Simeon, Stephanos, Theodorus, Theodotus, Timaios. You are all my brethren in the flesh and in the faith. Here also lie Alexandros, Philippos and Isidoros, kinsmen of those who were once kings and who had no fear as their ancestors had no fear. But what their ancestors did not know perfectly, these knew perfectly and go now to their reward….

[THOMAS]

This was the first time an emperor of Rome listened to a bishop of the church outside of the brief conversations that occurred at trials and executions. None of us thought that Constantine’s interest was more than a respectful curiosity about a cult that appealed to enough of his army that ignoring it might have consequences in the heat of battle. He was a practical man, both then and later and he never let his devotions interfere with his command. Still, most of his colleagues in the purple would not have stood quietly while a Christian openly flouted the prohibitions on Christian demonstrations.

29 XX INT – CONSTANTINE’S TENT. NIGHT.

Constantine is seen taking the clothes off a girl of about sixteen who has been captured and offered to him by one of his guards. Crispus is playing with a small sword and a straw enemy that is wearing some captured armor. Constantine is not ashamed to make love to the woman before his son.

[THOMAS]

For those who say that Constantine was a Christian before he knew of the Christian word, I would say that he was no better than most of his officers. He had seen his own father take the spoils of war after a battle, and felt no shame in doing the same before his own son. This was not an infidelity as his wife had been dead for five years, giving birth a second time. Neither she nor the daughter lived. It turned out to be most unfortunate that the boy, Crispus, adopted the same habits as his father in this regard.

30 XX INT- LARGE STABLE. MORNING.

A gathering of men and women inside a rather nondescript barn-like structure with morning light coming through the boards.

[THOMAS]

The church of Lukaios and my church did not merge into one larger church in the army, though both of us had expected that they would. There was a problem of language. My church spoke in Syrian, and Lukaios’s people spoke Greek. Most of my men and their camp wives knew Greek and could have abandoned our obscure tongue after we knew that Constantine would not enforce the edicts. We met together in one of the stables one afternoon and after Lukaios had read from one of the stories of the anointed that he possessed. I in my turn began to read from the first of books about the departure of Moses from Egypt.

THOMAS

It was written: The Lord said to Moses. Say this to the Israelites. You shall not make gods of silver to be worshipped as well as me, nor shall you make yourselves gods of gold.

LUKAIOS

Thomas, brother, I would have you know that we do not read from the words of the blind god.

THOMAS

The blind god? I do not understand.

LUKAIOS

I would have you understand. I have read the writings of Marcion the Wise One and know that the high god has thrown off the shell of the old god, who is now blind and helpless. We believe in the god of the anointed, not the god of the dead men of Judaea whose god condemned them in Jerusalem after they hung the anointed on the cross.

THOMAS

The anointed was Judaean, brother Lukaios. As am I.

LUKAIOS

The anointed was god in man, not in the old man of the old race, but the new man of the new race that you and I are both now part of.

THOMAS

I only recognize one god, the god of the anointed and of his ancestor David and of the priests of David.

LUKAIOS

The priests of David are dead and the temple of their offerings is no more and has been gone for two hundred years. The old god was a manifestation in smooth stone before an altar of rough stone and neither the temple nor the altar stand now, nor does the god that once filled them. The anointed announced the new god.

THOMAS

The messenger Matthaios says that he adhered to the law and only where he loosed the law may we loose the law.

LUKAIOS

I have heard of the messenger Matthaios but we say that only John of the apostles heard the words of Jesus in the day and in the night and only he understood him.

THOMAS

(becoming argumentative)

These are not the words we have read and will continue to read.

LUKAIOS

Then we will not read these words together.

[THOMAS]

We did not become soldiers then and fight. We were disappointed with each other and our churches were perhaps disappointed with both of us, perhaps mine more than his because we had been so small for so long that my flock would have welcomed enlarging the group, but it was not to be. I did lose two men to Lukaios, but in time he lost some to me. Divisions in the body of the anointed remained until much later when Constantine tried to make us all one.  And such divisions remained even after his efforts. In truth, they increased.

31 XX INT – RECEPTION ROOM OF A COURT. DAY.

The court is in Trier in Gaul. Constantine has a dais and a chair but prefers to stand in front of it. He is receiving emissaries.

[THOMAS]

The civil war that Constantius predicted soon engulfed Italy. Maxentius, the profligate son of the retired emperor Maximian, declared for the purple and being in Rome received the backing of the senate, which he had intimidated, and the praetorian guard, which he bribed. This brought Severus down the length of Italy to Rome, and though well justified in this action against a usurper, Severus was not prepared. He was not defeated by Maxentius, however, but by the latter’s father, Maximian, who came out of retirement and chased Severus to Ravenna, where Severus surrendered. Severus was taken to Rome under a promise that his life would be spared, but Maxentius executed him anyway.

Maximian, knowing that he and his son might soon have to fight Galerius, a more formidable foe, sent an offer to Constantine.

A messenger, QUINTUS, is standing before Constantine.

QUINTUS

The emperor Maximian is prepared to bestow on the Caesar Constantine the title of Augustus which Maximian alone in the west may now confer. In proof of his fidelity in this regard, he offers his daughter Fausta to the future Augustus.

[THOMAS]

Constantine already knew of the offer because one of the messengers had gotten drunk at a stable a hundred miles to the south and told his purpose to a spy.

CONSTANTINE

Quintus, are you a messenger or an ambassador?

QUINTUS

A messenger, my lord, though some might say I deserve a higher title.

CONSTANTINE

Would the Augustus Maximian say that you do?

QUINTUS

No.

CONSTANTINE

Then advise the Augustus Maximian that I look forward to receiving him, his offerings, and his daughter.

Quintus bows.

[THOMAS]

Had Quintus been an ambassador Constantine would have asked if there was a condition of military support against Galerius, now the senior Augustus, who was preparing to enter Italy to accomplish what the Caesar Severus had been unable to do. Since only an ambassador could negotiate, Constantine had committed himself to nothing. He had risen to the highest title in the empire and obtained a wife of the most illustrious rank, and if he was lucky he might not have to go to war to keep either. Constantine was always lucky in war.

32 XX EXT – COURTYARD OF A PALACE. AFTERNOON.

The wedding of Constantine and Fausta in Trier. MAXIMIAN, resigned Augustus and the father of Fausta, is seen leading the wedding procession into the courtyard.

[THOMAS]

Maximian came to give his eldest daughter to Constantine. Maximian did not trust Constantine, knowing that the marriage would not cement Constantine’s allegiance to his family, but he was satisfied that the union would at least keep Constantine from joining Galerius.

Constantine is standing on the steps to a door on one side of the courtyard, and comes down to the same level as his bride, whom he kisses to the applause of all.

33 XX UNDER A CANVAS THAT HAS BEEN DRAWN OVER ANOTHER COURTYARD. LATE AFTERNOON.

Constantine and FAUSTA are reclining on a huge dining couch which they share with well wishers who are invited for wine or food and then helped off by slaves who are experienced at court procedures. FAUSTA is in her twenties, not having been allowed to marry at the best age because of her father’s desire to assure that her marriage would be advantageous to him, if not to her. She is slightly overweight, but not without attraction. Constantine’s son sits at his feet but is ignored by all. It is assumed that Fausta will bear sons who will be grandsons of Maximian and therefore more deserving of the purple than Crispus. Constantine is aware of this and during a lull between sets of guests admitted to the dining couch he speaks to her.

CONSTANTINE

Beloved, I am aware of the whispers of your favorites and even mine.

FAUSTA

Yes, beloved, they do whisper.

CONSTANTINE

My son has been neglected too long and I hope you shall be as much a mother to him as to our own children that I expect will come soon enough.

FAUSTA

He is a dear boy. So sad for having lost his mother as she was bearing him a sister.

CONSTANTINE

He never knew his mother.  He says he remembers someone but I do not think it is her. He has only known the camp women.

FAUSTA

(annoyed at the reference to camp wives)

Then he has known no mother?

CONSTANTINE

(not willing to concede the point)

Some were better than others.

FAUSTA

(still annoyed)

Do you expect that I will only be their equal?

CONSTANTINE

I expect that you will be much their superior. I expect he will be your son and you will be his mother.

FAUSTA

So it shall be, beloved.

CONSTANTINE

(receiving Thomas, relieved not to have to continue the conversation)

Soldier, welcome.

THOMAS

Commander, the blessings of my century.

CONSTANTINE

Does that come with the blessings of your god?

THOMAS

(at first surprised at the question)

Yes, commander.

CONSTANTINE

I have advised my bride’s father that there will be no more confiscations of Christian property in my realm.

He signals a slave to hand Thomas a red tinted glass filled with red wine. The two men bow their heads slightly towards each other and drink.

[THOMAS]

Though I am sure that the imperator had known of the gatherings of my little group, and may have had a report of the unsuccessful meeting between the Syrian Christians and the Macedonian Christians, I had not expected him to acknowledge my violations in this manner. Or to forgive them so openly.

CONSTANTINE

I cannot speak for any of the rest, but I have asked Maximian to speak to his son on this. That would make the west safe for you. It is not safe in the east and will not be any time soon, I assume you know?

THOMAS

Yes, my general.

Constantine makes only the slightest motion with the back of his hand that the slave should move Thomas along but Thomas has seen the gesture and needs no prompting. He steps down from the couch and then down from the dais, barely avoiding some dancers who are providing entertainment between some of the surrounding couches.

[THOMAS]

Constantine liked to say that it was important not to make haste too quickly. That was how he made the worship of the one god and the anointed son safe, slowly but without turning back.

34 XX EXT- FIELD WITH CAVALRY. MORNING, A COLD AND WET DAY.

Constantine is assembling a force of about two hundred men in a field near his palace. It is first light in the morning but Maximian, who has been informed of Constantine’s imminent departure by Fausta, runs out in night robes to try to detain him.

MAXIMIAN

General, Galerius has entered Italy. Did you not hear the word last night?

CONSTANTINE

He will burn his provisions out sooner than Severus did. The Franks have invaded and I must attend.

MAXIMIAN

The Franks can wait. Galerius is a better general than Severus, as you well know.

CONSTANTINE

Then Maxentius must be a better general than Galerius. He has you to teach him so that should be possible.

MAXIMIAN

(rather too quickly accepting the praise)

Can you spare me some men?

CONSTANTINE

All that are left. Just make sure your daughter has protection. And my son, who remains with his new mother, and new grandfather.

MAXIMIAN

If Galerius defeats my son, he will be your problem.

CONSTANTINE

If your son defeats Galerius, he will be yours.

[THOMAS]

Constantine was more correct in this prediction than Maximian but it took some time for that to be seen.

35 XX EXT – FIELD

A large force of Romans is surprising a Frankish raiding party.

[THOMAS]

The Franks were not really breaking the truce and consequently Constantine’s presence on the frontier was not necessary. Rather, Constantine ordered some outposts burned, a sure way to arouse the interest and avarice of the barbarians, who invaded and were easily repulsed. It was all an excuse to avoid a fight with Galerius.

It was not that he was afraid of Galerius, though Constantine thought, incorrectly as it turned out, that Galerius would defeat Maxentius. Helping Maxentius defeat Galerius would have meant that Constantine would have to fight Maxentius.  Joining Galerius to defeat Maxentius would have meant that Constantine would have to fight Galerius.  Joining neither meant that he would probably have to fight neither.

So Constantine preferred to fight the Franks. The outcome was more certain.

36 XX BATTLEFIELD. LATER.

The battle with the Franks is over.  Constantine remains on his horse, but talks to Thomas who is walking among the dead, putting tar on the hands of the men he wants to be separated for burial.

CONSTANTINE

Why do the Judaeans not believe what you believe about your anointed? Was it not their books that said he was coming?

THOMAS

Some do. My family was Judaean.

CONSTANTINE

I have heard that there are many Judaeans in south Syria who say that your Jesus was the son of a Roman soldier named Panthera and a Judaean whore.

THOMAS

They wanted one to come who would defeat Rome. One who would raise a great army and defeat all other nations and make Jerusalem even more grand than Rome.

CONSTANTINE

Instead you say that your one god sent a poor man who spoke some good words that angered the Judaean priests, so our procurator deemed him a rebel and nailed him to a tree? That is not very god-like, Thomas.

THOMAS

He was not a king of this world.

CONSTANTINE

But he will return again? How do you know this?

THOMAS

Are these things you learned from Lukaios, general?

CONSTANTINE

My mother said some of these things as well. She had listened to Christians.

37 XX: EXT – FIELD. MORNING.

A burial scene. Five bodies are wrapped in white linen before a trench. Constantine is one of those present. Thomas is speaking.

[THOMAS]

I became what the Christians called an episkopos, an overseer or bishop, when the followers of Lukaios asked me to be their leader. Lukaios had been killed in a raid. I was amazed by how long he had lived, often being the first through a breach, but he was killed by a javelin that pierced his neck. I explained to his followers that I did not follow Marcion as Lukaios had, but they said that I knew the words of the anointed better than Lukaios had and they would listen to me now. The size of my following, and Constantine’s willingness to let us meet openly, allowed me to send letters to some of the churches. Letters came back that I must be the bishop of my growing flock.

THOMAS

Lukaios fought for the lord as he fought for Rome. He has given his life to the lord and to Rome and we come together to ask that he be admitted to those large mansions of our lord, and that he may sit with the wise and strong who came before us.

38 XX INT – PALACE, RECEPTION HALL. MORNING

Constantine and Fausta are on chairs elevated before the thick glass windows of the room. Fausta stands from her chair when her father, Maximian, still in the thick military clothing that is worn under armor, walks into the hall.  Maximian bows only slightly to Constantine and even less to Fausta.

FAUSTA

You have entered the hall of the Augustus of the west.

MAXIMIAN

Augustus.  I come as a supplicant.

CONSTANTINE

(lifting his hand to let Fausta know he does not want to press for a better greeting)

You come to remain here, or to go elsewhere, once Augustus?

MAXIMIAN

I have nowhere else to go, Augustus.

CONSTANTINE

Then you are welcome as a guest, once Augustus.

MAXIMIAN

That is all I ask.

FAUSTA

(with some anger)

And all you shall receive.

CONSTANTINE

Tell me what happened in Rome.

MAXIMIAN

I am sure your agents spoke correctly.

CONSTANTINE

I would have it in your words.

MAXIMIAN

He was losing control.  He does not let the senate meet.  He lets the praetorians do as they wish.  The games go on but Daza does not send the animals any more so it’s mostly bears and wolves, small leopards, nothing good.  I summoned the senate and they pressed me to be Augustus again.

FAUSTA

(derisive)

And you could not resist?

MAXIMIAN

He should not claim to be an Augustus.  You are the only Augustus in the west, and in the north.

CONSTANTINE

So what Augustus did the Senate want to make you if there is only one in the west?  Did this not break your vow with Diocletian?

MAXIMIAN

Old generals sometimes forget that they are old, Augustus.  I am just a citizen of your realm now.

FAUSTA

And a supplicant of the Augustus’s protection.

MAXIMIAN

I do seek your protection, Augustus.

CONSTANTINE

A place will be found for you provided you have no further designs against your son, and no further wish to offend the oath of retirement you shared with Diocletian.

MAXIMAIN

(bowing more fully than before)

Augustus, Augusta.

39 XX EXT – ROAD BEFORE MAIN ENTRANCE TO PALACE. DAY.

A carriage arrives outside the palace. Constantine awaits a visitor with the CHAMBERLAIN and several slaves.

[THOMAS]

It was after the return of Galerius to Greece that Constantine brought his mother to Augusta Trevirorum. She had declined this offer once before, but this time he did not ask her but rather asked the retired Augustus, Diocletian. Diocletian was dying and could no longer protect her if Maximinus Daza, the Caesar of Egypt, invaded Greece and defeated Galerius.  Though he did not look forward to adding her to the mix of palace politics, Constantine did not want to have to pay a ransom if Daza captured her and demanded one.

Though she was nearly sixty, she was thin and much more handsome than any woman of such an age that I had ever seen.

The carriage door is opened for HELENA. She refuses the assistance of a slave.

CONSTANTINE

Welcome to Augusta Trevirorum, mother.

[Trevirorum is the ancient name for modern Trier.]

MAXIMIAN

(looking to assure herself that no one of high rank ill be embarrassed by her forthrightness)

I had preferred to remain in Greece.

CONSTANTINE

(trying to lighten the mood)

I need the advice of women when the wars stop.  There are not enough here to guide me.

Constantine attempts to kiss her. She turns her cheek slightly, not completely rejecting or accepting his gesture.

HELENA

I am quite sure the portion of the palace granted to me shall have no access to you. No more than my letters had any access to you. I didn’t read yours either except to guess how many different scribes you had writing them. Am I to spy on your new wife?  She will not dare defy the future of both her husband and her father.

CONSTANTINE

(trying to change the topic)

The wines we get here are not as bad as I had expected. The meat is better than in Greece.

HELENA

I have reached an age where eating is often less comfortable than starving. Are there any Christians for me to speak with?

CONSTANTINE

Yes.  Right here. Thomas, whose family once knew the family of your Jesus.

Thomas shakes his head, but bows.

HELENA

We will talk, Thomas. Now I should repair to my room.

CONSTANTINE

Mother, you shall have three very large rooms to your use, more than you have ever had. Chamberlain, take my mother to her rooms.

HELENA

You should learn to live with less, Constantine. Then you might find salvation. Not that you would take advice from me.

CONSTANTINE

Mother, there has been an incursion and I must go north tomorrow.

HELENA

I shall manage without you.

CONSTANTINE

There is only one person I ask you to be careful about.

HELENA

Besides you?

CONSTANTINE

Maximian is here.

HELENA

Hiding from his son, I expect?

CONSTANTINE

(surprised that she has learned this)

Where is this known?

HELENA

I had the driver stop some messengers who seemed in too much of a hurry.  They told me because they considered me harmless.

CONSTANTINE

You see, I do need women around me.

40 XX EXT – FIELD. DAY. LIGHT SNOW.

A snowy landscape. Roman soldiers on horses, well covered with heavy blankets. Some infantry behind them.  Wagons pulled by oxen.

[THOMAS]

Some in the palace believed Constantine was going north to escape his mother.  While she was formidable, even dangerous, Constantine would not have fabricated a border incident to avoid being near her.  But it was not because of her that he had to return to Trevirorum.

A RIDER comes up behind Constantine.

RIDER

Imperator, a messenger from your wife.

CONSTANTINE

Asking what?

RIDER

For your hearing alone, imperator.

CONSTANTINE

(annoyed)

Bring him forward.

RIDER

(turning in his saddle and calling back)

Rearguard, forward!

The MESSENGER rides past the line of horses and men. RIDER falls back.

MESSENGER

Imperator, greetings from your devoted wife.

CONSTANTINE

What is it?

MESSENGER

Maximian went to the navy at Massilia and announced for the purple. He said a dispatch had you missing in battle and probably dead. He said the crisis in Rome allows for no delay. Two of your legions already support him.

CONSTANTINE

The Greeks?

MESSENGER

And some Italian units.

CONSTANTINE

Why did my wife send you?

MESSENGER

She found me after the assassins came. Most of the commanders you left behind have been executed.

CONSTANTINE

How did she find you?

MESSENGER

I was with the cook’s girl.  She knew about it. I apologize, commander.

CONSTANTINE

(turning to call forward)

Thomas!

Thomas, riding ahead of the emperor but far enough that he has not heard the exchange, turns his horse and comes back.

CONSTANTINE

(to Messenger)

Where is he now?

MESSENGER

He has not left Massilia.  The legions are still two days away.  Perhaps three.  No more.

Thomas is now with them.

CONSTANTINE

Thomas, our winter action is over. Maximian has revolted.  In Massilia.

THOMAS

He wants to fight you from Massilia?

CONSTANTINE

He wants to fight his son, but he’s doing it with my army.  He told them I’m dead.

41 XX EXT – GATE OF A CITY. DAY.

Roman cavalry going through the gates of Massilia (Marseilles).  Action follows Thomas’s description.

[THOMAS]

Maximian convinced two legions to follow him by telling the assembled armies that Constantine had been captured beyond the Rhine and then decapitated and thrown into the river. Upon learning that their commander was hastening to southern Gaul, most units deserted Maximian and sent messengers of their loyalty to Constantine. Maximian had only about a thousand infantry by the time we were near the sea. The citizens opened the gates and dragged the former Augustus into the public square where they forced him to lie on the ground until Constantine stood over him.

42 XX EXT – SQUARE INSIDE WALLED CITY. DAY

Constantine rides up to where his father-in-law is on the ground, his legs tied.

CONSTANTINE

(still on his horse)

Your colleague was right to retire, and you were right when you went with him.

MAXIMIAN

I did not fear to fight Maxentius, though he be my son. I did not revolt against you.

CONSTANTINE

You have become a fool, more dangerous to yourself than to me, and no threat to your son. I will spare your life but no longer your freedom. You will remain here until I can find a more suitable place to limit your excesses. Take him away.

43 XX INT- A LARGE CELL WITH BARRED WINDOWS. DAY.

Fausta is admitted to the dungeon where her father is imprisoned. The windows indicate that it is not in a basement. Maximian is on his bed and turns his back to his daughter.

FAUSTA

You should have given me the time when you had it. I would have told you that you had become a fool.

He does not move. She walks around the room until she is before him.

FAUSTA

Father, you should give yourself an honorable death so that you can have an honorable burial and I, at least, can retain my honor as your daughter.

MAXIMIAN

(realizing that his daughter is suggesting he commit suicide)

He could take Rome, and he keeps fighting Germans. Why? My son is a fool and my daughter is a bigger foot for marrying the biggest fool of all.

FAUSTA

(exasperated)

He gave you more respect than you gave him. You have never given me any. You have made yourself the laughing stock of the entire empire, west and east, the empire you once shared with Diocletian.

MAXIMIAN

Do not tell me of Diocletian. Only I can speak of Diocletian. At least he knew what to do with the infernal Christians that your husband now gives the empire to. Go away. Go!

FAUSTA

Good-bye, father.

The door is opened by a guard who has been watching through the grating in the door.

MAXIMIAN

Maxentius will come north and kill your husband and you. I am thankful that I will be dead before that happens.

FAUSTA

(through the door)

Go well, father.

[THOMAS]

He hanged himself that night with a rope that he had requested from the guards. They made sure that the rope was not long enough to lower him from the tower but they did not intervene when they saw that he was making a noose. They had been ordered not to. Some of the historians say that Fausta left the rope with him on her visit, but she was not a patricide.  Besides, I myself heard Constantine give the order to give him his choice of means.

44 XX EXT- COURTYARD OF A PALACE. MORNING.

A funeral being held in a courtyard. Only about twenty are in attendance. Maximian lies on a bier in purple robes. The bier lies on a pyre which is not yet lit.

CONSTANTINE

(beside the bier)

I am among those who knew the great emperor when he was great. He deserves to be remembered for when he was great, not later, when he was not. May we all be remembered for the best of our lives and not the worst. He called me son when his own son called him enemy, but then he called me enemy. Now his own son calls me enemy, but I will blame no one else for the emperor’s ill-timed revolt. I remember his great battles, long ago, when I was a child. When almost all here were children.

CAMERA goes over the faces of a few old soldiers who have been admitted to the private ceremony.

CONSTANTINE

May his soul soar to those councils that once looked down with favor upon him. If he has failed us, we have failed him. May he ever share the glory that he once gave to us.

Constantine takes a cup of wine and pours it on the side of the pyre, which is now lit, first by one of Maximian’s old comrades, then by two others. Constantine looks at Fausta, who is crying.

45 XX IMPERIAL BEDROOM. NIGHT

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