Interview with Claudia Procula from I, Claudia: A Novel of the Ancient World by Lin Wilder
I am Claudia Procula, wife of Lucius Pontius Pilate. My husband has been dead for several decades now. Like me, Lucius is the subject of vast ignorance, lies, and injustice. The very name Pontius Pilate has become synonymous with cowardice and betrayal. Those who claim to know the substance of my dream believe it emanates from evil. Others insist that those words that will be recited by Christians, “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, and died,” were the source of terror in my dreams. I was told by the Oracle that those eight words would echo throughout the centuries and be memorialized in something that would be called the Apostles’ Creed. Most of the people reciting the Creed would mindlessly overlook the word under and believe that the Righteous One was crucified by my husband. The slanderous claims, and all others like them, no longer break my heart; they are merely annoying. I often think of the writing of Socrates, a man I consider a good friend though he died before I was born. His wisdom and humility await those rare searchers of truth. “I know I am intelligent because I know I know nothing.”
I was born in Delphi, daughter of the last of the Oracles of Pythia. It was a time of disorder, chaos, terror, and the death of nations. My mother broke her vow of virginity in lying with my father. She feared for both our lives, because what she had done was punishable by death—hers and mine. The time of the Oracles was coming to an end. Men no longer listened to the whispers of the prophets, certainly not to the women—not even when we had the words of the gods on our lips.
I survived, but my mother did not. I was taken to Athens, where I was raised by Adrian and Sabina. Only they knew that I was the last Oracle; my true identity remained a secret to all others—although my husband speculated as much, due to my foreknowledge of so many things.
What is your current state of mind?
I am reflective, pensive but thankful as I muse about the seventy-nine years of my life... a life that will end very soon. I have experienced ecstatic joy and passion─ the depths of which few women or men for that matter, in my time or in your own, have felt.
But at the cost of an intensity of grief and sorrow that nearly took my life before I turned twenty-one. They are one; these extreme emotions of joy and sorrow, transporting us to the heights of the divine. Where the air is thinner, where Logos lives, where all things are one.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Now that is a most peculiar question. You ask which of the four cardinal virtues is overrated? And I must reply with a question of my own. How can prudence, or courage, or temperance or justice be receive a value more than is merited? Perhaps I misunderstand your use of the term virtue if so, I do apologize.
Which living person do you most despise?
Despise is a very strong word. But in truth, I do loathe Seneca, still although I do not think he is still living. I believe that his mendacity caught up with him and that one of the Caesar’s ordered him to kill himself.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Although this reply may amuse you, I say virtue with utmost seriousness. The possession of virtue is the quality I like most in a man.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Lucius. Lucius Pontius Pilate was the great love of my life.
When and where were you happiest?
Those three days after Lucius and I were married were the happiest of my life. Even after all these years, I can recall our first separation following our marriage so very acutely. When he left me to go to Jerusalem, I felt as though half of my body had been severed and discarded. The feelings of loss and pain were exquisite—as if my heart and soul were hemorrhaging. Our coupling had been far more than physical, and yet the physical had been the catalyst. The way our bodies fused was utterly astounding, igniting fires in the private places of my body I had never taken notice of. Yes, Lucius was the love of my life.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
That is a question I have pondered more times than I can count. Beginning with my insatiable love ─ no, need─ for wisdom. And then moving on to the strength of my willfulness, just two of many qualities I would have wished were different.
But I was taught that once we begin thinking that way, the list grows legs and becomes an entity. So many things we can criticize or detest about ourselves. If we push to the logical end, the only result, we realize that if we change just one thing, everything unravels. And we become someone else. I would not wish to be someone other than Claudia Procula.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Socrates, of course.
How and where would you like to die?
I hope my death will be quick, like Aunt Sabina’s. I am old so perhaps some kind of infection or a sudden internal problem, like Quintillus when he had some kind of injury in his brain...he was older than I am now when he became paralyzed. It lasted just a few hours. I hope not to linger between this and the next life. And I know I will die here, in Delphi.
What is your motto?
It is not mine, but rather that of the Oracle at Delphi: Gnōthi sauton. Know thyself, it is the work of a lifetime and even then not accomplished..those two words were the reason that the Oracle declared Socrates to be the wisest man in Greece. Because he knew that he was intelligent solely because he knew nothing. He knew that knowledge of ourselves was impossible but that we must take up the struggle.
Title: I, Claudia: A Novel of the Ancient World
Author: Lin Wilder
Genre: Fiction / Romance / Historical / Ancient World
Publisher: Wyatt Mackenzie Imprint
"They were the faces of my dreams..."
Claudia Procula--wife of one of the most controversial figures in ancient history--comes alive to twenty-first-century readers in a groundbreaking new novel by the award-winning author of the Lindsey McCall medical mystery series.
For decades, the daughter of the last Oracle at Delphi has suppressed the secrets of her birth, extensive education, and marriage to the notorious Fifth Prelate of Judea--Pontius PIlate. Now, at age seventy-nine, she feels compelled to leave behind her story for the world and set the record straight about the beginnings of modern history.
He has had his arms raised for how many hours now? Shouldn't there be a Joshua to help this Moses? I suppressed a smile at my wittiness, knowing better than to voice the thought aloud. My ladies would be shocked by my allusion to the great Jewish prophet. Well aware of my reputation as an empty-headed nitwit among those who served my husband, such low expectations had served me well. Best to maintain the fiction.
In a surprising change of genre and style, Wilder brings her extensive research and wide-ranging imagination to bear on the seminal story of our time: the passion of the Christ. The result is a compelling and harrowing love story replete with historical figures such as Seneca, Socrates, and Pilate himself. It is sure to captivate both believers and skeptics alike, and remain in readers' minds long after the last page is turned.
They say it is impossible. I was, after all, barely two when we
left Greece. But I remember Delphi. The only place I knew as
home echoes in my mind and heart still, after almost eight
decades of absence. The Delphian air is purer, the sky bluer, and
the mountains redolent with wisdom. Scrambling through the
tunnels beneath the Treasury of Athena kept me safer than I’d
have been in a nanny’s arms, and infused me with more knowledge than did my later tutors. It was there, crawling alone around and under those sacred stone structures, that the unreliability of the senses, the language of the Forms, the highest Good, transcendent and absolute, impressed themselves into my very being. That there was just one god, not many, was a certainty I shared with the Hebrews.
Too young. It’s absurd. Inconceivable.
I know. I think that too, as I write this so many years
later. But the truth is this. By the time I was nine, my Aunt Sabina and Uncle Adrian—my kind, adoptive parents—decided I was old enough to study philosophy, mathematics, rhetoric, Latin, and Greek. Sabina hired tutors, the best in Athens. She could not understand why they lasted just days.
“Claudia Procula! Alejandro has quit,” she admonished
me. “He is the third tutor you’ve had in three months. I had to
pay him a month’s wages though he was here for only five days!”
I looked up from the scroll of Plato’s Republic. Sabina
stood looking down at me, her expression a mixture of puzzlement and something else—I wasn’t sure what. Without thinking, I retorted, “You and Uncle Adrian could have saved a substantial sum if you had listened when I asked to spend my days in the Aristotle Library.”
The color in her cheeks rising, Sabina visibly worked to
control her anger. She was Mother’s older sister by ten years and
must have been past forty, but her beauty remained. She wore a
dark-violet stola with a light-lavender shawl tied at her narrow
waist with a gold braid. A gold armband served as her only jewelry.
Sabina had competed in the Heraean Games twice and won
laurel crowns each time in the long-distance marathons. Her
shape had changed little since those days.
Touching her long, blonde braid, my aunt’s expression
and voice softened as she studied me. “Why do these men quit
tutoring you, Claudia? What makes them want to leave so suddenly? Alejandro could not remove himself from here fast
enough. It was almost as if he thought you—” Abruptly, she covered her mouth momentarily, then let her slender hand drop back to her side. She closed her eyes and murmured the prayer I had heard often since childhood.
“Clear-eyed Athena, unrivaled in wisdom, daughter of
Zeus and Metis whose craft and wit excelled among the mighty
Titans: Athena, I pray to you. Wise in all things you are, goddess;
your cunning and guile are well known. In time of war you
have no equal in tactics or in strategy; many armies have you
guided to victory. In time of peace your blessings fall on those
whose work is of the mind–friend of the philosopher, the scientist, the student. Advisor of kings, patron of clever heroes and bold-hearted adventurers, defender of the thinker, mistress of reason and understanding, goddess to whom a strong arm and a sharp sword are nothing without the sense to wield them well
and the insight to know when words are worth more than
weapons. Athena, grant me a sound mind and steady temper,
bless me with good judgment, show me the long view.”
“These words are beautiful, even wise, Aunt Sabina, but