The Conversion Of Lucius Caisus
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The Conversion Of Lucius Caisus

A story about a young Roman soldier who becomes a Christian in ancient Rome. It is a wonderful story set with politics and predjudices of the time.

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The Conversion Of Lucius Caisus

A story about a young Roman soldier who becomes a Christian in ancient Rome. It is a wonderful story set with politics and prejudices of the time.

Author:    Michael McKinney


        Lucius Caisus, one of the best of Rome’s soldiers, ends up joining the Christian cause. In so doing he finds himself caught up in the politics and prejudices of Rome against the Christians. This is a great play that presents many sides of what was the “Christian Issue” of ancient Rome
This play is not strictly a religious play by any sense. It is good for any audience.

The Conversion Of Lucius Caisus

The Conversion of 

Lucius Caisus


Michael McKinney

The Conversion of Lucius Caisus

 Copyright 2003

by Michael McKinney

All Rights Reserved

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Scene 1

(scene is in a café in a public bathhouse where Marcus, Antonius, and Claudius are waiting for Bruttedius to join them.  Wine is sipped.)

(Enter Claudius) 

Antonius:  Claudius, how are you?

Claudius:  Well Antonius.  I hope you are.  Greetings Marcus.

Marcus:  Claudius.

Antonius:  (to Claudius)  I didn’t see you at the games yesterday.

Claudius:  I was called to other business, but I hear there was great spectacle.

Antonius:  Norbanus showed off some of his new fighters.

Marcus:  (to Antonius) How about that match between Certus and that new Thracian warrior?

Antonius:  That was a good match, though I lost a thousand sesterces on it.

Claudius:  Norbanus has the best gladiator school in Rome.

Antonius:  There’s no doubt, but his champion was overmatched yesterday.

Marcus:  Did you see that quivering wretch those two lions made a meal of?

Antonius:  He was a pathetic sight.

Marcus:  He never even raised his sword, who was he?

Antonius:  A farmhand that belonged to Publius Calvus.  He insulted his wife and tried to run away.

Marcus:  Well, his running days are over.

Antonius:  That was made sure enough.

Marcus:  Claudius, when I dined at your house last week, I saw a servant girl attending your wife.  She was a delicate young thing.

Claudius:  Yes, my wife’s new hairdresser.  She’s Greek and reads well with a good accent.

Marcus:  I’ll bet you paid dearly for her.

Claudius:  Twenty thousand sesterces.

Marcus:  Well, if she ever becomes displeased with her, I’ll give you double that.

Claudius:  That’s generous, Marcus.  I’ll keep it in mind.

(Enter Bruttedius, father of Lucius) 

Marcus:  Noble Bruttedius, it’s good to see you.

Bruttedius:  Thank you, Marcus.  Greetings Claudius, Antonius.

Claudius:  Bruttedius.

Antonius:  Bruttedius, we hear your son is marked for advancement.

(An attendant serves Bruttedius a drink) 

Bruttedius:  It’s true, Antonius.  I’m happy to say he stands a good chance of becoming commander of the second Augustan Legion.

Marcus:  We’re all glad for you Bruttedius your son is deserving.  Even in the Praetorian Guard his name is respected.  Caesar himself spoke well of him.

Bruttedius:  I thank you all. (Slight pause with a slight smile) I must confess the prospect of my son becoming Legion Commander is very gratifying.

Claudius:  As it would be for any father Bruttedius, adding as it shall (Claudius raises his glass toward Bruttedius) to your family’s venerable name.

Bruttedius:  Thank you, Claudius, but enough about me.  What business occupies the senate these days?

Antonius:  The issue of what to do with the Christians.  Cais Decius wants them declared a public nuisance, and have them barred from Rome.

Bruttedius:  He’s an influential senator and there are many in the senate who agree with him, but I doubt if Rome will ever be rid of them.  As long as ignorance and superstition exists, you’ll find fools to embrace it.

Claudius:  What I can’t understand is why they cling so stubbornly to their beliefs.

Bruttedius:  It’s mostly guilt, Claudius.  They have to take an oath not to incriminate one another.  In their so called sacred rites all manner of perversion takes place: cannibalism, debauchery, unspeakable depravities, after that kind of vile participation it’s easy to see why they don’t break ranks.

Marcus:  Their leaders say that all they want to do is to worship their God in peace.

Bruttedius:  If that’s true Marcus, then why do they take as converts slaves, criminals, and degenerates the very scum of the Roman society: that alone should tell us what kind of people they are.

Antonius:  They scorn our Roman deities and hold in contempt our sacred festival and games.  They act as if they were a law unto themselves.

Claudius:  Well I don’t think we need concern ourselves too much about them.  When they are long forgotten, Rome will yet be master of the world.

Bruttedius:  Let’s hope so, Claudius.

Marcus:  Bruttedius, your son Lucius approaches.

Claudius:  Hail Lucius, Rome’s valiant servitor and soon to be new made Legion Commander.

Lucius:  That honor is not yet mine, Claudius.

Claudius:  Your name is foremost among all candidates.

Lucius:  I am content to accept whatever comes.

Antonius:  Lucius, you’re too modest.  If a man is to make his mark, he must press for advantage, and seize upon what favor fortune bestows.  Humility wears well on a slave, but not on men of choice and distinction.

Bruttedius:  Lucius, I’ve arranged an audience with several influential senators.  Their endorsement could not but help you.

Lucius:  I’ll be ready.

Bruttedius:  Good. Gentleman, our water should be good and hot by now, shall we go?

Antonius:  Indeed, I’m ready for a good bath.

Marcus:  I’ll join you shortly.

Bruttedius:  We’ll see you then. (Exit Brut., Ant., Clau.) 

Marcus:  Lucius, as you know, I’ve known your father for many years.  We grew up together, served in the army together, (in levity) sometimes fell in love with the same woman together, and so I hold his friendship dearly.

Lucius:  Marcus, he has spoken with no less affection for you.

Marcus:  I’m glad to hear it.  (Pause) Lucius, I’m sure you know that it would mean a lot to your father for you to become Legion Commander.

Lucius:  I’m well aware of it.

Marcus:  And yet I sense it may not mean as much to you, Lucius.

Lucius:  Marcus, I’m content to serve in whatever capacity I can.  To have my name lifted above others means very little to me.

Marcus:  That kind of thinking will hardly open doors for you.  Don’t forget, you have competitors in Rome, most of which are flushed with ambition.

Lucius:  Let them thrive as they may.

Marcus:  Indeed, but not at your expense.  I’ve seen men of far less caliber than yourself acquire considerable fame and renown.  For your father’s sake and your family’s good name-

(Lucius cutting in) 

Lucius:  Marcus, I will do what honor instructs and requires.

Marcus:  I have no doubt about that Lucius, farewell.

(Exit Marcus) 


Lucius:  Yes, I am ambivalent, but I couldn’t expect you to understand why, Marcus.  For you a man’s worth is measured by his wealth, and status, the size of his house, how many slaves he owns, These things mean little to me.  Any thief can gain as much.  Wisdom, courage, compassion, these are the true marks of high character.  I hold these qualities more noble by far than all the rank and opulence of the equestrian order, whose bloated flatulence I look upon with more disdain than interest but for these my father’s friends, and I fear my father as well, believe that a man’s chief aim and purpose is to feather his own bed.  These friends (with a slight mockery) would pour me into ambitions mold, remaking Lucius into what they believe is the perfect man, a shrewd, calculating climber, but Lucius is not so malleable as they think.  If I am to become commander I will accept it, and bravely meet the face of war as I have many times.  If not, that would suit me just as well, there’s more to life than war and bivouac.  I have been a diligent soldier and given Rome my loyal service for nearly ten years, but lately my thoughts tend to other things.  Were I to decline this offer of command, I would have more time for the study of letters, of art, and music, and for these I might prove a willing subject.  But, come what will, I will accept whatever role fate has in store as all of us must. (exit Lucius) 

End scene

Scene 2

(Scene is a room at the palace where Cais Decius, Sempronius, (friend of Cais) and Plutonius (professional orator) are waiting for Caesar to plead a case for his consideration.)

Cais:  Plutonius, your words must be given so that the power of your speech commends itself without undue stress.  So take care that your oratory is delivered with a measure of restraint, and should he interrupt at every point, offer the humblest of courtesies.

Plutonius:  Cais, I shall deliver myself with unfeigned grace and will apply my words with a zeal commensurate with the tone and demeanor of Caesar’s imperial countenance.

Cais:  Good, Sempronius, you’re on good terms with Caesar, do you think our appeal will be favorably received?

Sempronius: I cannot say, Cais.  Caesar is his own man in all things, but I do know him to be open to reason and when he’s hearing a case, opinions can be freely expressed.

Cais:  That’s good to know.  (enter Herald) 

Herald:  Imperial Caesar approaches.

(Enter Caesar and his aide Druses.  Caesar takes his chair while Druses stands aside.) 

Caesar:  Cais Decius, you did petition Caesar for an audience and Caesar grants it.

Cais:  Most venerable and beloved Caesar , I humbly thank you and shall attend carefully your grace’s interest and counsel in these proceedings.  The matter in question is, as you know, the damaging and subversive influence this Christian cult is having on the laws, customs, and venerable institutions of our great republic. Caesar, I have with me a gentleman who can- (Caesar cut him off.)

Caesar:  No, Cais Decius!  You and you alone shall state your case, not your paid professional orator, in whose presence I find grounds to suspect your case may be weak,  for is your words alone would lend merit to your argument, no measure of added sophistry would be needed. (pause, looking at Plutonius) I do not buy smoke.  Cais Decius did petition Caesar and Caesar will now hear him speak.

Cais:  Then by your leave, worthy Caesar.

Caesar:  You have it.

Cais:  Myself and other concerned members of the senate do deem it advisable to request of your sacred person consideration of more strident measures to curb the nefarious and seditious influence this unlawful sect is exerting on Rome.

Caesar:  Seditious you say, in what respect?

Cais:  First in that they fail to acknowledge the divine authority of Caesar following instead the teachings of an obscure Hebrew magician who lived in the time of Tiberius.  Jesus the Christ as they call him, who himself was put to death for practicing sorcery against the state.  His followers hold his name above all else.  They, unlike other religions, are not content to worship their Jesus along with Apollo, Jupiter, or any of our other deities, but make the claim that Jesus Christ alone is worthy of adoration and in this shameless idolatry they are completely obstinate.

Caesar:  What is the nature of these teachings of Jesus Christ?

Cais:  As useless as they are ridiculous, to worship their Christian God, show charity and forgiveness to all, and unreservedly love your enemies.

Caesar:  (in levity) Hm, doesn’t sound like he knows any Goths. (subdued laughter)  Sempronius, what is your opinion on this matter, as your words aren’t bought I’ll hear them.

Sempronius:  Royal Caesar, I must concur with Cais Decius in this.  This cult which started in Judea has spread quickly. Where as its followers were once small groups of Jews and Levantines, now Greeks, and Italians are among its adherents.

Caesar:  Are these Christians calling for the overthrow of the government?

Cais:  Not as far as we can tell, Caesar.

Caesar:  Have they committed any crimes against Roman citizens?

Sempronius:  They have not.

Caesar:  Then why are you so alarmed?

Cais:  We humbly suggest that owing to the benevolent and paternal nature of our beloved Caesar that your grace may not fully apprehend the inflammatory possibilities of allowing these Christians to continue with their illegal activities.

Sempronius:  They proselytize constantly, and take into their ranks the destitute poor, women, slaves, and criminals as converts.

Caesar:  Senators, I’m well aware of their presence and their activities but yet I cannot see any imminent danger in these people.  That they’ re deluded, I’ll grant you.  As far as their proselytizing goes, well, the world is full of witless dupes gullible enough to believe anything, as one fool will always follow another.  The fact that men of learning and scholarly achievement give no credence to this Christian superstition tells us clearly that it has no philosophical merit.  Concerning this Jesus character, I’ve heard the stories about him.  As far as I can tell he was no more than a worthless mendicant who, after begging all his life, went to his death as meekly as a lamb.  If he was so great, why couldn’t he raise an army to crush his enemies?  If he’s the example that his followers emulate, I don’t think we have much to worry about.  These people are more of a nuisance than a threat.  I look at them with pity rather than anger.  Let them wallow as they will, in their own ignorance.

Cais:  But yet they do deny your divine authority.

Caesar:  That’s their failing. You senators of Rome rightly do you address yourselves to protecting Roman laws and morals, and in this concern your words are I know in earnest but I am the emperor of the civilized world, in whose broad scope the stamp of Roman law must at every point apply.  I am responsible for the governance of the empire, responsible for its security and defense, responsible for keeping the seas free of cutthroat pirates, protecting our trade and commerce, responsible for keeping at bay the warlike Goth and barbarous Hun, who if they had their will would cut our throats and slaughter our wives and children Such is the unceasing vigil and awesome covenant that Caesar must embrace and uphold, by whose measure your case seems tedious and paltry.  Rome has real enemies, not the kind that follow the milkwater teachings of an obscure Hebrew.  Therefore, until these Christians give greater offense, Rome’s policy in dealing with them shall remain as it is, at least for now, but as a precaution to insure the strength and purity of Roman imperial power, let it be heralded in every legion as treasonable for any man to be involved with this cult.  The armies of Rome are not to be tainted with this superstitious nonsense.  (Looking to Druses) By imperial edict let it be proclaimed.  (Druses nods) Cais Decius, you will inform the senate of Caesar’s will in this matter.

Cais:  I will noble Caesar.

Caesar:  Caesar has spoken.  (Exit Cais, Plutonius, and Sempronius)(Caesar stands, is more relaxed with Druses) 

Caesar:  Well, our senators come with dire warnings of forthcoming peril.  Tell me Druses, you who stand in silence and observe, what do you think of their argument?

Druses:  Caesar, my opinion is that their fears are overstated, but in one thing their words I think ring true.

Caesar:  What is that?  Speak freely.

Druses:  These people who follow Christ are very stubborn.  My uncle served for three years in Bithynia as governor’s aide.  He told me of countless times when Christians who were told in advance what to say when a magistrate would ask of their loyalties would yet still uphold the name of Christ, and go willingly to their deaths He said in three years of duty he saw hundreds do as much He told me that one day there appeared before the magistrate a family of three, a father with his son and daughter.  The young both being of an age to speak for themselves, the magistrate did set to the proof.  My uncle beforehand pleaded with the father to say what he needed to save his family, but when asked, all three denied the emperor’s divinity, and claimed allegiance to Jesus Christ, and even as they went to the swordsman they were praising and invoking his name.  My uncle says he can still picture the daughter’s face so peaceful and fair, then seeing her long beautiful hair soaked with blood All three were beheaded.

Caesar:  A foolish waste, lives thrown away for nothing.  What is it about these people that makes them so unwieldy, Druses?

Druses:  I don’t know Caesar, but I have noted two distinct aspects of their nature.

Caesar:  What are they?

Druses:  They are unyielding in what they believe, and yet at the same time, generally peaceable in their comportment.

Caesar:  Yet they do proselytize.

Druses:  Mostly those of low degree.  Intelligent people don’t take them seriously.

Caesar:  How many of your slaves are Christians?

Druses:  At least thirty, probably more.

Caesar:  Are they a problem?

Druses:  Not at all, in fact they’re well liked.  They seem in a strange sense, contented.

Caesar:  A contented slave, that strains credulity doesn’t it?

Druses:  I observe them Caesar, I don’t claim to understand them.

Caesar:  Hm, neither do I Druses, but I do understand the senate, though they have little understanding for my position, or what it means to wear the imperial purple.  They debate at length, policy for which they have absolutely no responsibility, whose consequences the emperor alone must deal with.  They trade in slaves from all over the world and then complain that Rome is filled with foreigners.  They complain about taxes and yet expect munificent festivals and public games, fattening themselves at opulent banquets with easy talk of what they would do to dispel Rome’s enemies, most of them have never struck a single blow in the field  Sometimes I wish they would just disappear.  Most of them aren’t worth the excrement they produce.  But I must be attentive and at least feign interest in their affairs, for plots can be hatched in the senate, Druses.

Druses:  Both the senate and the people are greatly enamored of your royal person Caesar.  I cannot believe anyone would plot against you.

Caesar:  Nobody believes plots exist until they’re attempted or succeed.  That’s why I and every Caesar has had to deal with the senate on at least some level. It doesn’t pay to ignore them.

Druses:  You certainly can’t be accused of that.

Caesar:  I’ve been more amenable to their concerns than many of my predecessors.  Most of whom had nothing but contempt for them.  Valerian forced them to debate for a solid month how turbot should be cooked.  I at least give them the respect of title.  (Slight pause with slight resignation) Well, we will do what we must for the good of Rome and pray that the gods will look kindly on our efforts.  Come Druses, let’s go in.  

(Exit Caesar and Druses)

End Scene

Scene 3

 (Scene is street corner where a family is selling bread, father, son and daughter have just arrived and are setting up for passers by)  

Father:  Come Fabius, let’s put up this table for your sister, daughter, you have your bread ready I’m sure?

Daughter:  I do Father.

Father:  Let’s hope you sell a lot.  (Another table where two soldiers will soon sit; people begin passing by w/o showing any interest.) 

Father:  Fabius! (with a short, quick upward gesture with his hands as if to signify sing) 

Fabius:  Bread for sale, bread for sale, we have bread for sale. (One person buys, then another as two soldiers come and sit at the table.) 

First Soldier:(rudely) Wench! Bring us some bread and a bowl of wine.  (slight pause) So Trebonius, you owe me three hundred sesterces from the races yesterday and you wager again tonight.

Trebonius:  That’s right Lepidus, but I’m owed twice that much from the games last week, so my debt is covered and if this night proves you a loser you’ll owe me. 

(Enter Lucius) 

Lepidus:  Lucius come and sit with us.  (Lucius sits)  Where does your gait carry you this night?

Lucius:  To the theater to hear a play and then music.

Lepidus:  A play and then music.  (in a slightly mocking tone) Your enemies would laugh to hear you say it.  Lucius, how dull, come with us.  We know a place where the dicing is fast and there are ample numbers of willing females for ah, recreative use, hm.

Lucius:  No thank you Lepidus.

Trebonius:  Lucius, we hear rumors that you’re marked to be Legion Commander.

Lucius:  I wouldn’t pay them any heed, Trebonius.

Trebonius:  Would it not be a great honor for a man to achieve that?

Lucius:  Yes, as there is honor in many things a man may achieve, even things other than warfare.

Lepidus:  Is that what they talk about in the theater, Lucius? (Trebonius and Lepidus with a smirkish laugh) 

Lucius:  Sometimes.

Lepidus:  Well, where we’re going, we don’t have to say a word to be understood.

Lucius:  I’m sure that’s true, people don’t do much talking in a brothel.

Trebonius:  Lucius, why shouldn’t we enjoy ourselves?  We leave for the frontier in a few days and a soldier must take his pleasure when he can.

Lepidus:  Besides not knowing if his next battle will be his last, he should live to the hilt in case it is, my father used to say to bathe, to hunt, to eat, and gamble is to live.

Lucius:  The Greeks say knowledge is the key to living well and advise nothing in excess.

Trebonius:  But we are Romans, not Greeks, Lucius.

Lepidus:  And the Greeks never conquered the world as Rome has.  Come Trebonius, to our bets.  Lucius, farewell.  Fellow soldiers we are and as such we leave you.

Lucius:  Lepidus and Trebonius farewell.

Trebonius:  Farewell Lucius, and when you become Legion Commander, don’t forget your friends.

Lucius:  My memory is as good as yours Trebonius. 

(exit Trebonius and Lepidus, Lucius sitting alone) 

Lucius:  And so it is that in some men hot blood governs, leading them on to blindly hazard any vice or folly that mischief can produce.  When the flame of passions fire is kindled the cold light of reason is always dimmed. 

(Fabius’ father approaches) 

Father:  Is everything alright?

Lucius:  Yes, everything’s fine, thank you.  I’ll dwell here a moment and then be on.

(Father motions for daughter to sing, daughter sings the song of the bread girl) 

Lucius:  You sing well maid, how did you come by that skill?

Daughter:  I was taught by my mother, sir.

Lucius:  No daughter was ever given a finer gift than your mother’s to you.  Is she still alive?

Daughter:  She is not.

Lucius:  (Pointing with open hand) But your father yet lives to protect and guide you.

Daughter:  (Gesturing to Fabius) And a brother as well.

Lucius:  Do you sing as well?

Fabius:  I do.

Daughter:  And plays the lyre.

Lucius:  Indeed that’s a skill well worth having.  If I were not a soldier, I would like to study music.

Fabius:  Why not study it now?

Lucius:  A soldier in the imperial army of Rome does not sing or play a musical instrument, he would bring disgrace upon himself for showing such tenderness.  A soldier is told to be as hard and unyielding as the iron tip of his spear, and in all ways to be warlike, and other such foolishness to pointless to mention.. But tell me, are you freedmen or slaves?

Father:  Sir, we are freedmen.  We are poor but we have enough and we are happy.

Lucius:  How can someone be poor and happy?

Father:  We are poor in those things that most others covet, but wealthy in other ways.

Lucius:  How can a man who sells bread in the street be wealthy?

Father:  Our wealth is not of this world but of the spirit (brother and sister look at each other)  We are Christians.

Lucius:  It must be difficult for you living in Rome where Christians are not welcome.

Father:  God finds a way.

Lucius:  Tell me what good is your we

The Conversion Of Lucius Caisus

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