ANCIENT ROME

 

Following the Trojan War, Troy’s Prince Aeneas and his descendants Romulus and Remus founded the empire of Rome. Vandal Savage would throughout the rise of Rome assume the identity of several key figures. Among the known identities he adopted was Julius Caesar until his believed assassination on the Ides of March and later as Licinius until he met defeat against the forces of Constantine. Some hundred years after the death of Savage’s Caesar identity, a Roman Centurion by the name of Algon became the lover of Jezeba, queen of Ma-phoor, Ethiopia. Algon was transformed by the Orb of Ra into a Metamorph where he betrayed Jezeba and was exiled from her land. The queen employed her magic to seal her city off from the world for 2,000 years where she remained physically unchanged. When she learned of the existence of Metamorpho, she thought it to be Algon and sought to re-align with him to conquer the world. The hero would spurn her and ruin her plans leading her to summon Algon to face Metamorpho and Element Girl. Around the time of Algon and Jezeba’s drama, Uxas (birth name of Darkseid) arrived in Rome spreading tales of the Greek gods. Prior to his calculated elimination of his family to obtain the throne of Apokolips, Uxas was a child of the Fourth World and wanted to dilute the power base of the Third World. As the Romans began to align their deities with that of the Greeks, the Greek gods created avatars of themselves for the Romans which led to both Pantheons being weaker than the original. Darkseid would later return and crush Zeus due to his long-range machinations. Likely, the most significant period of Rome’s era is the birth and resurrection of Christ.

The Spectre, a fallen angel that rebelled against the Presence and served as His spirit of vengeance for penance, was responsible for events such as destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the tenth plague of Egypt, and the destruction of the walls of Jericho. However, at the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, it was expelled to limbo because the spirits of vengeance and forgiveness could not walk the Earth at the same time. Jesus’ time on Earth was short, however, when he died for the sins of humanity and artifacts from his final days became powerful instruments throughout history. Jesus’ prayer shawl, stolen when he was taken to the cross, became an important talisman for Zandia’s Church of Blood where its leader Brother Blood drew power from it. The Order of St. Dumas obtained the Shroud of Turin, the cloth that covered Jesus’ corpse (which was then stolen by an offshoot of the organization in the Order of Purity), and guarded it for thousands of years as it could be used to identify the descendants of Christ. The Holy Grail, an ancient and powerful chalice even before finding its way to Jesus, was Christ’s cup at the Last Supper and was used to catch his blood at his crucifixion. The Illuminati sought the Grail for centuries before it was possessed by Emperor Tojo during World War II protecting his country from the Allies’ super-powered operatives. Following this, the vampire Azzarene, who only ever drank of Christ’s blood on the crucifix and became his follower, secured the Grail to protect it. The Lords of Order compelled Azzarene to provide fellow vampire Andrew Bennett the cup in a bid to destroy the universe. Likely the most powerful of these holy relics, if not the most powerful artifact in creation, the Spear of Destiny is the lance of Longinus which pierced Christ’s side. The Spear fell into the hands of conquerors throughout history including Constantine, Alaric, Charles Martel, Charlemagne, Frederick of Barbarossa, Frederick II, and Adolf Hitler. Employed by the Axis to keep the Allies’ super-powered operatives at bay, it would become known the Spear is a weapon capable of harming any known being, be them divine or cosmic. A figure associated with Jesus’ crucifixion is Josephus the Wandering Jew who offended God’s son on his way to the cross. Josephus was cursed to live until the end of days where he may not walk among companions for long lest he bring doom upon them (though he became an infrequent ally to Arak Red-Hand, Son of Thunder). At one point, the tale of the Wandering Jew was applied to the origins of the Phantom Stranger but that has since seemingly been shown to be inaccurate. With Jesus’ absence on Earth, the Spectre became free to again mete out its harsh form of righteousness but with a caveat.

Upon Jesus’ crucifixion, the Spectre erupted from Limbo only for the archangel Michael to inform it the rules had changed. Henceforth, the Spectre may only walk the Earth attached to a human soul to guide its hand. This first host was Caraka, a man murdered in India, who dealt vengeance upon Lady Beltane, the woman who murdered he and his family. Beltane’s soul, however, would elude the Spectre and clash with it for hundreds of years. For over a century, Caraka and the Spectre instilled fear in the hearts of the wicked forcing Lucifer to take action. The forces of Hell converged on the Spectre but the demon Sekuba would find success when she convinced Caraka his hosting the spirit brought harm to his wife and son in their reincarnated lives. Caraka sought to raze the world but was stopped by Michael who stripped him of his power. As the Spectre sought another host, Michael fused Caraka and Sekuba into Azmodus whom vowed to be the Spectre’s nemesis. A spirit of another type was imbued in a magical object crashing to Earth around the time of Christ’s birth.

Yalan Gur, the Green Lantern of Earth’s sector, was nearly killed by a yellow beast prompting the Guardians of the Universe to remove his weakness to the color yellow as a test case. Seemingly unstoppable, Gur felt infallible and decided to handicap humanity’s development as he feared they could threaten the universe. When the Guardians learned of Gur’s assault, they made him weak to wood (which the Chinese defenders he fought employed) leading to his death. Curiously, at the time of this event, another significant occurrence unfolded. Billions of years ago, the Guardians believed magic to be the personification of chaos and sought to collect it in one place at the heart of a star. Called the Starheart, these energies gained sentience and sought to escape its prison, attaching itself to a comet. After hundreds of years, it crashed on Earth where the spirit of Gur merged with it. An artisan named Chang found the meteorite and could hear Gur’s spirit speak to him. Chang fashioned a lantern from the metal as his neighbors believed the spirit to be evil and killed the poor man (leading the lantern to then slay his murderers). In time, the lantern found its way to America where Alan Scott fashioned a ring from part of it and became the Green Lantern. Coincidentally, around the time the Starheart emerged on Earth, one of Scott’s nemeses in Blackbriar Thorn, last of the Cymru druids, transformed himself into a wooden statue to evade the Roman army and wouldn’t return until modern times. With Gur’s death, a new Green Lantern was needed for his sector and some 600 years later, a human from Earth would become the first of his people to become a Green Lantern in China’s Jong Li. Several other notable figures would emerge around the time of Christ’s resurrection.

Sought to aid in the assassination of Emperor Caligula, Gaius Marcus initially refused to play a part in the madman’s demise until he found Caligula with his wife. Angered, Marcus prayed for the council of the gods only to be answered by the demon lord of flies Beelzebub. In exchange for his soul upon his death, Caligula would die and Marcus’ wife returned to him alive (only, in a twist, she would be the one to murder her husband). Assuming the name Buzz in his new life as a demon, Marcus became an infrequent ally to Vandal Savage in his guises of John Wilkes Booth and Jack the Ripper and enemy to the Matrix Supergirl in modern times. Following the theme of assassination, Roman Centurion Cinna attempted to assassinated Praetor Clodius Crassus a decade after Caligula’s death. When he failed, he pinned blame on a shepherd named Marcus who in turn became a slave as his punishment. Marcus would become a gladiator fighting for his life for the entertainment of Crassus as Cinna exposed him to escalatingly more dangerous threats. The gladiator proved himself a mighty champion, eventually being awarded golden armor by Crassus as Marcus came to be dubbed the Golden Gladiator (as well as Marcus the Mighty). Marcus’ fame only drew the ire of Cinna as the gladiator attracted the romantic interest of Cinna’s niece Lucia. One of history’s mightiest warriors, Marcus jaunted through time on occasion including in the War That Time Forgot and as part of a force of Earth’s greatest champions hailing from across time during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Half a century after Marcus’ death, more iconic heroes made their debuts.

Marcus Aelius was one of Rome’s most remarkable soldiers. In fact, he proved so capable that with the arrival of the alien race the Virimiru on Earth, he was selected as the planet’s representative to receive special training under the species. The while, one of the Virimiru would remain as part of an exchange program. However, this would prove to be a ruse as the Virimiru sought conquest and their representative earned the trust of the populace while assessing their weaknesses. When the aliens return a champion to their home planet, it is in fact the last step before an invasion. The Virimiru Foris Ab Talimen remained on Earth for nearly 2,000 years while only ten years passed for Aelius in space. Upon his return, Aelius was dubbed the Alpha Centurion but was instructed Foris went rogue and needed to be captured. In truth, Foris did not want to invade Earth and made Aelius aware of the plot, joining forces with him against his own kind. Contessa Erica Alexandra del Portenza, ex-wife of Lex Luthor and mother to his daughter Lena, claims to have known Aelius in ancient Rome and employed magic to survive the centuries to lead the malevolent Agenda organization. Around the time Aelius left for space, the Parliament of Trees created Saint Columba as their next elemental. Towards the fall of the Roman Empire near 476 AD, the Homo Magi (a race of magically adept beings existing parallel to humanity) feared their race would be diluted from coupling with Homo Sapiens and opted to move to the Hidden City in a mountain in Turkey. Led by Dr. Mist, their city was powered by the Medulla Jewel and could shift into another dimension. It was also around this time the viking Valoric fought the Huns and was accidentally taken to Valhalla despite still being alive. As he yet lived, he could not enter and was cast into a time warp to 1944 where he fought in World War II as the Viking Commando. Several decades after Valoric was discarded to the sands of time, the viking Beowulf would do battle with the creature Grendel, the spawn of Vandal Savage millennia ago and adopted by Satan himself. While unconfirmed, there is a likelihood that the legacy of Vulcan and its White Martian fighting metavirus has roots in ancient Rome.