As soon as the old woman and her granddaughter near the city, walking hand in hand, it is clear that something big is amiss.
Trumpets are sounding. Drums are pounding at a deliberate beat. A procession of Roman soldiers in full regalia on horseback streams toward the marketplace.
Townspeople follow the line of soldiers. Something big is happening.
“What is it?” people say to Sophia when they see her.
Sophia pretends not to hear their inquiries. Stone-faced, she walks with Eirene to the town square, where a podium has been set up above the crowd. Pushed and shoved in the jostling for position in the crowd, Sophia stumbles.
The young man who had caught Hellen’s eye the day before sees them. “Sophia Theia! Eirene!” he calls. He hastens toward them. “Come with me,” he says.
He leads them up a staircase into a building with an open balcony where they can see the crowd and the podium.
Finally, a contingent of seven horsemen ride to the podium and one of the riders alights. A gong sounds. A hush falls over the crowd.
The herald stands at the podium, and with a clear and ringing voice, announces his authority with a string of epithets:
“On the authority of Flavius Theodosius Augustus
“Son of Valentinian
“Defeater of the Usurper Eugenius at the Battle of Frigidus
“Slayer of the Polis of Thessalonica
“Victor in the Battle of Maximus
“Defender of the Catholic Church
“Founder of the Capitol in Constantinople
“Emperor of Catholicism
“Sole Emperor of the Empire
“Champion of the Christian Faith
“Destroyer of the Serapeum at Alexandria
“Destroyer of the Temples of Syria
“Destroyer of the Temples of Carthage
“Destroyer of the Temple of Delphi
“Prohibitor of the Games of Olympus
“Hereby, let it be known that henceforth and forever more
“The Mysteries of Demeter are forbidden henceforth and forever more.
“The temples shall be closed henceforth and forever more.
A murmur sets up through the crowd. The gong is sounded again.
“Entrance to any temple is forbidden henceforth and forever more.
“Gazing upon a statue is forbidden henceforth and forever more.
“Offerings within any home are forbidden henceforth and forever more.
“All domestic shrines shall be destroyed henceforth and forever more.“
“By the power of the Roman Imperial Emperor, Champion of the One God, the True God:
“The Eleusinian Mysteries are forbidden henceforth and forevermore.”
The speaker jumps back onto his horse and the regalia of horsemen begin their parade through the center of the city and out of town.
Sophia looks out on the square.
“What does it mean, Maia?” her granddaughter asks.
“Sophia Theia?” says the young man.
Sophia looks out on the crowd, stone-faced and silent. Some people see her on the balcony. “Sophia Theia!” they cry. “Sophia Theia!” Many eyes turn to her. Slowly, she raises her right hand and extends her index finger and crooks it. The elders in the crowd do the same.
Sophia descends from the balcony and begins walking toward the theater, the elders and others in her wake. “Sophia Theia, let me carry you,” says a man with a carriage.
They arrive at the interior of the theater where Agnas is supervising the orchestra and dancers.
A stream of children, messengers, run to the farthest rows of the theater, and, unusually silent, await their instructions.
Agnas stops the rehearsal. “What is this?” she asks when her mother and more than a hundred elders settle into the seats of the theater.
“Bring us something to eat and to drink,” Sophia says.
“Let us honor our elders,” Agnas announces. Servants begin dispensing food and beverages to the elders.
Hellen comes running into the theater. “Mother, what shall we do?” she cries.
Agnas looks toward Sophia. “What is this all about?” she asks.
“The Emperor has outlawed The Mysteries,” Sophia says.
“We must send a delegation to the Senate,” she continues. She crooks her finger and the oldest boy messenger runs up. “Go to the Senate and tell the magistrate that a Council of Elders wishes to convene there tomorrow at 10 o’clock,” she tells the boy. She writes something on a piece of parchment and hands the boy a candle. “Light this,” she orders him. The boy lights the candle from the altar of Hestia and brings it back to Sophia. She folds the parchment, drips candle wax on the flap, blows on it, and seals the document with the insignia from her ring.
“We must prepare our arguments,” she says.
The elders begin to break up into smaller groups, parchment papers and pens in hand.
“Another foolish edict from Rome,” says Agnas, center stage. “As if these foreigners could ever bring an end to the Mysteries. Not on my watch,” she says.
“Play it again!” she says. The musicians begin a raggedy rendition. Agnas bangs her baton on a drum rim.
“And. We. Begin,” she says, holding both hands aloft in front of her. With a downstroke, the music commences.