Lactantius, On the Deaths of the Persecutors, c. 315 AD
Emperor Valerian, having been made prisoner by the Persians, lost not only that power which he had exercised without restraint, but also the liberty of which he had deprived others, and he wasted the remainder of his days in the vilest condition of slavery. Shapur, the king of the Persians, who had made him prisoner, whenever he chose to get into his carriage or to mount on horseback, commanded the Roman to stoop and present his back; then, setting his foot on the shoulders of Valerian, he said, with a smile of reproach, "This is true, and not what the Romans boast of." Valerian lived for a considerable time under the insults of his conqueror.Valerian the Fallen
They wonder, I know, why I endure my fate, why I have not rebelled and forced Shapur’s guards to end my life.
They do not know that on the plague-stalked field beside Edessa where my army met the God of Death and I was taken
The heavens opened unto to me and gave this fallen king a vision such as gods have sent to few men dead or living.
I have never since beheld the world as other men behold it; I do not see the trodden dirt beneath my captor's steed but times to come.
I see mighty Rome laid low, its walls broken, Goths and brigands dancing in the Forum while noble women wail and rend their robes.
I see order overturned: emperors bow down to holy men in rags and call them by the blessed name of Father, while scholars write the words of starving women in barren cells and call them truth.
I see small ships that cross the ocean and upend the world, casting down old empires and raising new.
I see philosophers with lenses and crucibles burning libraries of old wisdom and building temples to new revelations.
I see machines like iron bulls that belch forth smoke and do the work of fifty men.
I see plebeians breaking down the palace gates, not to name a new man king but to proclaim an end to kingship.
When the shah’s foot stomps my back I see ships of fire sailing to the stars, and men walking on other worlds.
I do not choose to die because even as a footstool I behold the wonder and majesty of creation, and with every breath I praise the gods who brought me here to share their gift.
– John Bedell, September 2023