Claudius and Messalina

It may be thought that Robert Graves, in his historical novels „I, Claudius” and „Claudius the god”, wrote all that was necessary! Well not quite for he missed out a lot! And here is what he omitted God knows why!


In the year 795 A.U.C. the divine Claudius sat down to a game of bridge in the Imperial Palace with his partner and wife, the ravishing, slim, black haired Messalina. Because the Senators, as the records show, fawned excessively before Caesar, he was obliged to select his opponents from amongst the lower orders. On this occasion he chose Narcissus (a faithful minister) and the Captain of the Guard (a Germanic half–barbarian).


   How did the Romans play ?
Well, in the first place bridge contests did not last until a pair first scored a vulnerable game. Romans valued life’s other pleasures too much to play endless rubbers like Phileas Fogg or other members of the Reform Club. Every game was played independently on it’s own and all points won were scored „above the line”, thanks to which it was possible to predetermine, without any regrets, how many deals would be played  in a session or even to terminate the contest beforehand.
Besides they played without haste and not for too long. Seldom did they play for longer than a roman hour (which was some 40 to 80 present day minutes), with such delight that within that time they managed at most 6 deals. According to the roman maxim „Comments are half the pleasure”, they considered nothing perverse in discus­sions during play or longer diatribes thereafter.
 Above all, bridge was practiced solely by aristocrats.


In the final deal the auction went as follows: