From the scrolls of Quintus
Fully recovered, my heroine rides the last few miles towards Rome. In order to gain time on the incoming troops, she always took only little breaks. She now is one week ahead of them. That’s enough time for Rome to mobilize all the troops. Arriving in the suburbs of Rome, she spots a crowd that had gathered in front of some kind of fountain. It looks like the opening of a new building.
No more thirst!
A couple of weeks after the construction of our monumental City Wall, I, Quintus the Great, have the honor to attend the official opening of the first urban Horse Drinking Trough in Rome! In this suburb of Rome, horses and other four-legged friends have the opportunity to drink from the basin for free. The Stonemason has put a lot of effort into making it look like a shell. What a pleasant sight for the Roman people!
The words of the donor, a monotheistic believer with the name Barberini, to the people is also engraved:
FONTI AD PVBLICVM VRBIS ORNAMENTVM
SINGVLORVM VSIBVS SEORSIM COMMODITATE HAC
Worked like a horse!
A nice saying with the following meaning: “Built as an ornament to the city, for the joy and benefit of every one. In the year of 1644.” But what do I have to notice? It isn’t even 1644! It should be “CXLIV”, so without the “M” and the “D”. What was the Stonemason thinking?
Quickly the Stonemason answered my question: It was his apprentice, who wanted to show his skill with this piece of art. He does however still struggle with Roman numerals, as he is only beginning to learn how to read and write. First, he engraved an “M”, which however does stand for the number “one thousand”. He then wanted to correct his error with a “D”, but that was also wrong, since it stands for the number “500”. It’s only from the “C” onwards, that the year is correct.
So here they are, the wrong numbers set in stone. And that despite the Stonemason swearing black and blue that the Horse Drinking Trough would be completed without a mishap. Quickly we covered the text with a leather blanket. Barberini the donor asked me to immediately write a letter to his descendants:
“Dear great-great-great-great grandchildren of the x-th generation, we strongly ask you to newly sculpt the Horse Drinking Trough in the year of 1644. So no one will ever find out that the Stonemason’s apprentice made a tragic mistake when engraving the numbers in the year 144 AD. Inaugurate the Horse Drinking Trough once again at that time and claim that it was built by yourself. So the Barberini family could be spared the shame. Vale! Your ancestor, Sixtus Barbarini.”
And so the Horse Drinking Trough’s engraved text was hidden for centuries.