United at the wrist, the two fugitives hurried through the streets, looking for a building in which to hide. But Upper Corinthus was still asleep, so its doors weren’t open yet. Footsteps and shouts in the distance told Rex that the guards had escaped the latrine. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the pursuers—and they spotted him too.
“This way!” he urged Flavia. “We can still lose them!”
After switching directions three or four times in the tight alleys, they rounded a corner and found themselves staring at the Temple of Aphro- dite on the citadel’s summit. Unlike the other buildings, its entrance was wide open. Religious awe, not wooden doors, kept intruders out of this particular edifice.
“We can’t hide in there,” Flavia protested. “It’s our only option. Come on!”
The idol of the goddess, naked from the waist up, loomed inside the temple as Rex and Flavia entered. She was svelte and full-figured, painted in lifelike detail as she held out her arms to offer seductive pleasures to her worshipers. Rex could understand why so many people venerated Aphro- dite. Sexual desire was universal to the human race, and its intense hunger could easily be turned into an object of worship.
“She disgusts me,” Flavia said.
“That’s part of what makes her attractive.” “Maybe so. But there’s a better way.”
Rex had no answer for that. Instead, as he gazed up at the marble statue of the goddess—dominant and alluring as she reigned over ancient Corinthus— a plan formed in his mind. The guards outside were running everywhere, shouting and searching for their prey. Although Rex and Flavia were safe for the moment, it would only be a short time before they were discovered. He turned to Flavia to propose an idea.
“When I was a cadet in speculator school, my trainer, Aratus, used to talk about three options. He taught us that in situations like this, you have to pick the strategy of an animal—a mouse, a badger, or a hornet. Sometimes you sneak around quietly like a mouse, sometimes you fight like an enraged badger, and sometimes you smash the hornet’s nest and lose yourself in the confusion. Right now, I think it’s time for the third option.”
“That sounds better than fighting. And sneaking hasn’t gotten us any- where. But what would create a hornet’s nest like that? Should we start a giant fire?”
“How about if we topple a giant goddess?” Rex replied.
Flavia arched her eyebrows and her mouth fell open. She pointed up at the idol. “You mean—”
“I’m not pious. I would do it.”
“I am pious, which means I would too! But how?”
Rex led Flavia onto Aphrodite’s pedestal. Using the folds of the goddess’s lower garments as footholds, they climbed to the bends of her outstretched arms, one on either side. Together, they threw their conjoined wrists over the statue’s head so that the manacle chain was at the nape of Aphrodite’s neck. “The guards are outside now,” Rex whispered. “Get ready. When I say go, we jump!”
One of the Goths ascended the steps to the porch. “I’ll check inside the temple, boss!” he yelled.
Rex cupped his free hand to his mouth. “We’re in here, you loser!” “Comrades! Over this way!” the guard called to his friends.
A moment later, the three Gothic thugs were silhouetted in the doorway. They began to approach the idol. Two of them held clubs, while the third had a knife.
“Oh, Rex,” Flavia murmured, “I don’t want to get caught again!” “Just hold steady. Wait for it . . . a little more . . .”
Flavia shifted and groaned as the men drew close. “Jump!”
The pair leapt from the goddess’s arms to the floor, dragging her with them by the chain at the back of her neck. Shrieking, the guards tried to dive out of the way as the idol bore down on them like a bare-breasted demon from hell. Rex and Flavia used their momentum to land in front of Aphrodite’s massive form as she crashed onto the paving. A chunk of flying marble struck Rex in the back of the head, stunning him, but he kept his wits enough to keep running for the door in a cloud of debris and powdered stone.
Coughing from the dust and dizzy from the blow, Rex emerged into the sunlight with Flavia at his side. He squinted and shook his head, trying to regain his bearings. People were yelling and dashing toward the temple.
“Three Goths have rebelled!” Flavia shrieked. “They attacked us in the temple while we worshiped. They knocked over Aphrodite!”
“How dare they insult our goddess!” roared a beak-nosed Greek with an unruly mop of curls on his head.
“Where are they?” demanded another Corinthian patriot.
“Inside!” Flavia replied, extending her finger. “Don’t let them get away!” The crowd pressed toward the temple entrance and seized one of the guards as he stumbled out. A smack with a broomstick sent him to his knees. Everyone started kicking him and hurling insults while Rex and
Flavia melted away in the confusion.
They didn’t talk for a while, but instead hurried to one of the citadel’s minor gates. Exiting onto a path that wound through some trees, they de- scended toward the suburban estates around Lower Corinthus.
After establishing some distance from their enemies, Rex called for a halt at a little clearing that gave a view back up the mountain. His foggy mind had cleared now. Though the blood on the back of his head was sticky, it was no longer flowing. He examined the main road coming down from the citadel but saw no signs of pursuit.
“Those were some fierce hornets we stirred up,” Flavia said to Rex as they took a final look at Upper Corinthus.
“Yes, because those hornets were guarding their queen. The Queen of Love.”
“Pfft!” Flavia scoffed with a wave of her hand. “The Queen of Love is flat on her face, while the King of Kings still reigns on high.”
(c) Bryan Litfin, Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2021. Used with permission from the publisher.
Constantine’s Empire Book #2
The year is AD 316. Imperial persecution has ended, but Christianity's future still hangs in the balance. Will churches rise in Rome where pagan temples once stood? Will the true Scriptures replace the myths of the gods? Will Jupiter finally bow the knee to the Lord Jesus?
For the first time in history, the Roman emperor supports the church. Bishop Sylvester sends Flavia from her convent to seek Emperor Constantine's permission to build great churches and determine the canon of Scripture. But the enemies of God are on the move. Joined by Rex, Flavia's beloved protector who has fought his way out of exile, the two friends cross the empire by land and sea on an epic quest to free the Roman people from the tyranny of the ancient gods.
Bristling with tension and undergirded by impeccable historical research, this tale of courage, defiance, and humble submission to God continues the captivating saga of two unlikely allies in the age of imperial Christianity.
Inspirational Historical | Christian [Revell, On Sale: October 12, 2021, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9780800738181 / ]
Bryan Litfin received his PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia and a Master of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. His undergraduate work was at the University of Tennessee in the field of Communications.
Bryan now works as Head of Strategy and Advancement at Clapham School, after serving for 16 years as Professor of Theology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and 3 years as an editor and writer at Moody Publishers. He is the author of The Conqueror (Revell, 2020), Every Knee Shall Bow (Revell 2021), the Chiveis Trilogy (Crossway, 2010, 2011, 2012), Early Christian Martyr Stories (Baker, 2014), After Acts (Moody, 2015), and Getting To Know the Church Fathers (Brazos, 2007, 2nd ed. 2016), as well as numerous scholarly articles and essays. In early 2022, he will release Wisdom from the Ancients (Harvest House).
Bryan is married to Carolyn, and they have two adult children. He enjoys writing, traveling, teaching, reading, spending time with family, and being involved in his local church.