The dream had disturbed my sleep, and on waking and finding Pilate already gone, I called for the slave to bring me writing materials; the man was innocent, he must not die, was the burden of my words; but it would have been better had my husband been there; but he was about his duty – as usual.
My father had approved the match. Since much of the family wealth had been lost by grandfather’s decision to back Mark Antony, we had, he told me, to make the best of things in Augustus’ world, and Pilate was the protegé of a Senator who was ‘in’ with those who had supported the Emperor from the start; it could do us no harm, and besides, he had the reputation of being a decent man. It had not turned out quite as papa would have wanted, but Pilate’s many weaknesses did not include cruelty to his wife. Like many promising young men, his promise lay in the past, and the governorship of Judea had been by way of a compensation prize from his patron; some prize; what compensation?
I suppose it was better than Gaul – at least the weather was good; my sister, whose husband was posted there told me it rained all the time. But at least the Gauls knew they were barbarians and were pathetically grateful to be civilized by us; but the Jews! The Jews were forever going on about Solomon and his Temple, and their one God, as though that made them something special. I didn’t like their leaders; they were as self-satisfied and smug as the supporters of Augustus back home. But Pilate, having finally made it to this version of ‘the top’ had no intention of failing; it was typical of his optimism that he couldn’t see this was the end of the line, as good as it was going to get. His method was to give the Jewish authorities what they wanted – within pretty broad limits – in return for them keeping their stiff-necked fellow Jews in line. He was for ever saying that if he did well here, it might not be too late for something better elsewhere; there would be no elsewhere, the smell of failure was on him even when he came here. He wanted his name to live in history; as if.
It had been Mariam, my hairdresser, who had told me about Jesus, and the centurion had confirmed her stories; this man was a healer. Our son, our only child, Pio, had been lame from birth, and nothing the medicine men and women at home had been able to do had helped; but Miriam had asked Jesus, and Pio’s foot had been cured. I had followed his career thereafter with interest I had even seen him from afar and been struck by something about him. That might have been why I had that dream; it as certainly why I wrote to Pilate. I did not expect to be able to help, even though he had helped us; but I had to try.
Pilate explained that it had been ‘tricky – which was his way of saying that he might have had to show something he had never possessed – moral courage. The Jews, he told me, were ready to riot. I had been scornful, saying if that had been the case, why had that dreadful man Caiaphas wanted Jesus arrested by night and the trial to be carried out at once? But Pilate told me I did not understand; of course I did- he was a dreadful coward and had taken the easy way out; he always would.
That afternoon the sky had grown dark at the ninth hour, and there had been a heavy thunderstorm; it was said that the dead had been raised from their tombs and many had seen them; there was always many who had seen that sort of thing among the Jews; it was some sort of compensation for having only one God, I suspected. But I had felt uneasy; this was not right. When that Jew came and asked Pilate for the body, I interceded and he gave his permission; it was the least he could so, so he did it.
That was all long ago. He was recalled, half in disgrace, although the revolt last year and the destruction of the Temple showed that my husband had not been as useless as his enemies had alleged. After his death, Pio and I retired to our estate on the south of Gaul, not far from the sea. It was quite the coincidence that he should have run into some Jews there a couple of years back. They were followers of Jesus. I had heard the stories of his rising from the dead, and I had believed them. I had done my best to persuade Pilate not to allow Caiaphas and his ilk to persecute the followers of Jesus, but it had not worked. It was typical of Pilate that he never asked why I had intervened.
If he had asked, he might have found the answer to something which did puzzle him, which was why I became less discontent with our lot. Miriam’s cousin, Cephas, told her all about Jesus rising, and I sought him out, and saw and believed; he laid his hands on my head and I received the Spirit; since then I have followed The Way. That was why Pio and I made Mary and the others welcome, and why we celebrate the memory of Jesus on the Sabbath, where we sing some songs, hear readings from the memoirs of the Apostles, and drink His Body and His Blood – until he comes again. Pio has sworn to help Mary and the followers, and there is a building they can have. The Shroud is kept safe there, and many have been healed by it. I have told Pio he must be careful – the spirit of this age will persecute the followers of the Way; but we shall prevail – He said as much.
Legend has it that Claudia Pilate did indeed convert to Christianity.