Sophia enters the theater back stage, kisses Eirene, and sends her off to play with the other children in the stands.
Agnas is supervising the performance of the Hymn to Aphrodite. When she sees Sophia, she hastens over.
“Good morning, Mother,” she says.
“Good morning, my dear.”
“As you can see, my scenery is half-finished, while all the city’s carpenters are busy at work rebuilding the grainary you torched yesterday.”
“Now, now, dear. They are almost finished.”
“And I have to use actresses to play the parts of the male characters. Half my musicians are gone, the men pressed into service as guards and some kind of makeshift army.”
“We all suffer in times of war.”
“War? Is that what this is? Since the beginning of time, a truce is called for The Mysteries, and the first time I am in charge my mother starts a war right in the middle of things?”
“Your Mysteries will go down in history as the greatest performance of all time. The Mysteries that turned the tide against the Christians and this monotheistic nonsense.
“Now, dear, please perform the Hymn to Athena. The people are watching. We must invoke the warrior Goddess.”
“Oh, for Deo’s sake,” says Agnas.
Agnas interrupts the Hymn to Aphrodite with applause. “That is good, very good. Thank you.” She bustles about the stage as Sophia joins the elders in the audience.
As the performers prepare for the Hymn to Athena, a conversation ensues among the elders.
“Tell me about this Alaric,” Sophia says.
“Presbis, there is good news and bad news.”
“Tell me some good news, please.”
“The good news is, Theodosius, the Roman Emperor, is dead and his sons are weaklings.”
“That is good news.”
“The bad news is –“
“Wait. Let us savor that for a moment.” A pause, a smile. “Go on.”
“His son, Arcadius, has been given rule over Greece and Egypt, but, because Arcadius is weak, his wife rules in his stead.”
“I would put that in the good news column.”
“She is a champion of Christianity.”
“Why would a woman embrace a religion that hates the Goddess?”
“I don’t know, Sophia Theia.”
“She is a Roman first, a woman second,” says Sophia.
“She allied with Alaric against her own military commander because she fears that the commander will become too powerful. She ordered Stilicho to stand down against Alaric’s forces in the north, in Thessaly.
“Now, with Stilicho out of the picture, there is nothing stopping Alaric.
“Alaric has laid waste to every town north of here. Every city save Thebes.”
“He is a road warrior.”
“He fights on land. Our ports have nothing to fear.”
THE HYMN TO ATHENA COMMENCES ON STAGE
“Thebes stood against him?”
“And Alaric is now entertained in Athens?”
“Then Thebes is our best hope for an alliance. Dispatch an emissary to Thebes. We wish to honor their victory in extraordinary fashion.”
“How will we honor them?”
“Let me think.” Sophia watched the spectacle of the Hymn to Athena fill the stage.
“Eleusis will honor them as never before,” she said.
Athena stood triumphant on the stage.
“A Theban will serve as hierophant of the Mysteries this year.”
“Sophia, Theia, it cannot be done.”
“With a Theban as hierophant, Thebes will send warriors to defend the Mysteries.”
“Your family has always served as hierophant. It is not possible.”
“We all suffer in times of war.”