Martino and I joined the army together: both sons of veterans, we took the sacramentum militiae, the military oath, at the age of 15 and they sent us together to Gaul, assigned to the Guard Corps of the Emperor, the Augustus Constantius II, and Cesare Giuliano.
How many have we been through together! We were like brothers, but he was different from everyone else. Sometimes I teased him and told him he had the wrong job: he was too kind, too delicate, too… unselfish. It was easier for him to run to help a wounded comrade than to rush into the field to finish off a dying enemy ... He laughed and said that in fact he had only followed the imperial laws so as not to shame his father. He did weird things and sometimes I told him I didn't want to know where he had been and with whom, because I wouldn't spit how to react afterwards. However, he has always been in his place, an excellent soldier and incomparable friend.
On Easter 339, we were 22 or 23 years old, I realized that he had done something. Then we were in Amiens and he had returned to the camp with a face ... I don't know how to say ... he was as if transfigured, as if he were here with his body, but somewhere else with his head and heart ... Oh, yes! I had understood, finally! At the venerable age of 22 my friend and brother Martino had known the sweetness of love! By force! One with a face like that and a stupid expression painted on his face, what else could he have done but playing with a beautiful hetera in a brothel? Ah! I hugged him tightly and lifted him off the ground laughing and telling him how proud I was that he had become a full-fledged man (I had always been one step ahead in this and had been dating women for some time ...). Martino looked at me and smiled before saying to me: “No, Tullio, no women, who are also the honey of the earth. Today I received Baptism ”… I told you it was strange, but he was so happy… I didn't understand, but I loved Martino and so I decided to be happy with him. He told me: “I am sure that one day you will understand, my brother”… When he called me “brother”, that word gave me a strange emotion. So I went to get drunk. That evening it was Martino who took me back to the camp: he came to look for me, he found me, devastated by the wine, he loaded me on his shoulders. Because Martino was like that.
In any case, this Baptism had not hurt him, because he was always the same, both as a soldier and as a friend. Perhaps he was more taciturn and at the same time more serene about something that only he knew.
In 356 we were in the middle of the countryside on the Rhine: Emperor Constantius II was fighting against Alamanni and Franchi. We knew there was going to be a big, decisive battle the next day. We were close to Basel, in Augusta Raurica, and soon we would be called to receive the donativum, because when we really risked dying, to encourage us soldiers, the Emperor gave us a kind of supplement to the salary, and I must say that it was nothing. bad.
Martino was next to me, in a row, and I could see that he was restless: I knew him well… I tried to make him talk: he wanted to refuse the award and instead ask for leave, leave the army, in short, drop me there! I almost punched him! And just then the Emperor calls him and that wooden head bows and says to him, I'll never forget: “So far I have fought for you. Let me now stand up for God ”… Open Heaven! The emperor was left with salt and with a harsh voice told him that it was not like a man and a soldier of the Empire to escape the militia out of fear, hiding behind reasons of religious conscience ... And that other cheeky, that by now who stopped him more, he replied seraphic: "Tomorrow I will place myself unarmed before the army arrayed in the name of the Lord Jesus, protected by the sign of the cross, not by the shield or by the helmet that I place here at your feet, and I will penetrate in complete safety in enemy garrisons ”… His brain was spinning.
But the Augustus who, let's face it, was a crafty one, had him caught and thrown into prison: he didn't want him to escape waiting for the next day's trial… And who escorted him to prison and kept an eye on him all night? The! Better, so we could talk, but it was useless: he was calm and confident. So much so that in the end I too thought we would see wonderful things. Martino believed and made others feel this faith, even a mule like me.
The next day I accompanied him as I said, but I kept my hand on the sword, because I would not have let him die without trying to save him ... And suddenly a handful of knights arrived from the enemy camp: the enemies had sent a ' embassy to negotiate peace ... That was a miracle, even for me. I looked at Martino: there was not a triumphant grin on his face, but that sweet serenity of his, as if it had not been his merit, but had only been the means, the means used by whoever was, and is, the greatest. And the Augustus granted him his leave ...
In the tent he prepared his few things: his cloak, a tunic, some sandals. He left the rest to me, so that I could at least remember it. I felt like I was dying. And I didn't want to, because I am a soldier of the Emperor, son of a veteran and almost a veteran myself, with the blood of defeated enemies on my hands, not easy to emotion. I am not moved. Yet when Martino, my brother-in-arms, hugged me tightly to take your breath away, tears fell from my eyes like a mountain torrent, which does not let itself be stopped even by the largest boulders. My soul cried silently and cried in losing perhaps the only loved one, after the few memories of my mother, the only true friend, brother rather than blood ...
I was alone at the bottom of a steep-sided ravine. Abandoned in a desert. And Martino blessed me in the name of his God, telling me that I would never be alone and would always be with me in the most important place ... And he touched my chest at heart level.
I watched his back walk away from the field without looking back, but I had a song in my chest and a smile on my face.
Martino, my brother forever.