In introducing the main character, I am trying to accomplish two things. The first image of the centurion reveals something of his innocence. His skin is smooth and bears no scars. There is a great quote, either at the beginning of the film, “Platoon,” or on its movie poster, I can’t recall which, that says: “The first casualty of war is innocence.” I’ve never forgotten that line. And just as we saw the main character’s innocence lost in that film, so we will see the centurion’s innocence lost over the course of his career. His skin is one of the visuals I use to show the lingering effects of the battles he has fought and of the losses he has incurred.
The skin is also a visual that I use to age the centurion. His scars, like so many age-marks, map the terrain his life has traversed. The older he gets, the more reminders he carries of how far he has traveled from home.
As the centurion dresses for the day’s duties, his garments distinguish him. The strength of the Roman Empire was embodied in its soldiers, especially in its centurions, which were a cornerstone of the army. I will come back to this image at the end of the book, where I use it to externalize a transformation that has occurred in him.