The full moon glowed modestly, offering itself as a substantial and protective companion to the asterism of stars. The cawing of the crows appeared to be almost painful, while the wind blew silently, taking away with it all the insignificant bits of earth. The stridulation of the crickets offered a sense of serene comfort in contrast to the eerie silence that the night offered. The soft, white glow of the moon illuminated the room, bringing light to the articulate and detailed architecture— rare, even among the palaces of the most powerful of the Emperors— work of one of the greatest Greek architects of that time. The silent, yet subtle cries of nature were successful in waking up Emilia, who woke up with a soft jolt and a sense of restlessness coursing through her.
It was the day she was going to be crowned the ruler of Greece - 20 BC. Her father’s untimely death had left her in a state of tragic desolation, but she was forced to pick up the shattered remains of her heart and step up as the next ruler of the powerful and robust kingdom, which was the pride and the sum of innumerable efforts of her father. Not having time to mourn her father and having to take up the responsibility of such a potent kingdom were not the only things that left her in heart-rending despair. In a time where despite having female rulers— the greatest that the world had ever known— a woman’s place was still seen to be in her home, with rearing children and being good wives as the sole purpose of their existence. How could she ever compete with these stereotypes of gender roles which were so deeply ingrained in the very society that she was supposed to rule and look after?
As she sat on her bed, with the silk sheets rumpled around her, she found herself in an inner conflict. Her chocolate brown eyes had their sight fixated on the flowing curtains, while her slightly disheveled brunette hair fluttered and tickled her at the amused directive of the cool breeze. She sat there, in a trance, fighting the raging army of emotions within her. She was torn. A significant part of her wanted to take up this challenge, wanted to prove everyone wrong and take up the role of the leader just like Cleopatra and Nefertiti and so many others have so unconventionally accomplished. A leader that her father’s now abandoned legacy so desperately needed. But a larger part of her, the part fuelled by insecurity and fear of failure, screamed at her, encouraging her to run away and never look back. She was terrified. The thought of potential failure at this extremely challenging task brought a chill to her spine. The possibility of a brutal backlash of the royals, ministers, and the common people sent her in a state of anxiety and fear. She fought hard not to let the feeling of sheer hopelessness consume her, but deep down, she knew she was in a horrible purgatory.
She did not know how long she sat there, in the same position, contemplating her next move. She had to reach an agreement with herself before it was too late.
The sun started peeking from the horizon, the initial rays hitting her in the eyes, snapping her out of the trance she had allowed herself to indulge in. Disoriented, she got up and decided to get dressed for the exhausting day she knew awaited her. But as she walked across the room, her glance fell on a painted portrait of her father and memories of her childhood came crashing to her, knocking her off emotionally. She remembered how she had only one dream since she was a little girl - and that was to make her father’s chest swell in pride. She remembered how her father kept her grounded but also ensured she was always happy and taken care of. She wondered what her father would think of her if she chose to run. Would he be understanding of the unmanageable distress that had suddenly been cast upon her? Or would he be disappointed that his upbringing did not raise the warrior he hoped he had?
She made her decision, right there, in the spur of that moment, right on the edge of that thought. With a steely resolve, she headed to get ready for the day with a newfound determination. It was the day that would welcome an indomitable Queen, who would have unfathomable kindness contrasting with sheer invincibility. One whose name would be known far and wide by every child for centuries to come.
Author: Anika Priyaranjan
Editor: Aryaa Shah