“Greek Woman at the Bath,” Jospeh-Marie Vien, 1858, WikiArt.

Part 1: Love Death-Entombed

Faithfully I served my mistress, handmaiden
Enjoying her pleasantries, luxuries bestowed
To her, by my presence also visited me,
Small favours for indulgences, “Thyia, share
My bed tonight,” Camilla whispered from
Behind curtains sheer, meaning understood,
Servant but also lover, when thrust of men
Gave way to secret adoration, honeyed taste
Of dark nights. Alas! My breakfast bowl flowed
Over, fruit, bread, cups of wine, morning bath
In quiet solitude, few women enjoyed, whether
In servitude or by oil-scented aristocracy.

Thus months and years passed, bare feet
Upon cool marble floors, keeper of secrets,
Confidant, spying pair of eyes and ears,
Accompanying her to provinces, late-night
Love affairs, my body her obedient eating
Table, delicacies savored upon my breasts
olives and cheese, delving deeply to my
Pungent self. Then, tragedy struck our shores,
Soldiers returning from foreign battlefields
Brought loathsome disease, sweats and fevers
For which no cures existed, unanswered
Prayers to bronze-face gods we prayed.

At first, I fell stricken into deliriums, mistress
Camilla, her physician beckoned, sips of willow
Tea, tree bark bitter extracts, my love praying
At my side, days later I recovered, owing to
Olive-skin ancestry, immunity I possessed over
Native Roman-born. Alas! Such was not true
For Camilla, as she lay dead upon her bed. Lo!
Thrust I was into shackles, chained fast to
Stone wall, my fate to accompany Camilla to
Afterlife, dead or alive, in stone burial vault
Entombed. Thus, was her dying decree,
Commands male servants would fulfill.

“La Vertueuse Athénienne,” Joseph-Marie Vien, 1762, WikiArt.

Funeral procession, Camila’s body flower and
Silk-gown adorned, I followed by few steps,
Handmaiden, honour duty-bound by shackled
Wrists, accompanied into tomb, upon couch
She death-reposed with food, afterlife posses-
Sions, my fate to accept breast-cleaving dagger
Or to sup from poisonous chalice. Coward, I
Admit, dagger I declined, my chains released,
Tomb door closed-locked, single air-shaft
Provided light, glimpse of sun, such death,
Felt more like punishment than Camilla’s
Enduring love. How long could I survive?

How long will entombed Thyia survive? She must decide, on dagger or
poisonous cup, single sip thereof sends her into non-lethal intoxication.
For more on Greek and Roman concepts of afterlife, see this link:

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