Chapter 1  Thecla’s Early Years


A loud rumble echoed off the walls. The house shook. People were running in the street. Thecla and her mother were not overly alarmed. Earthquakes were not unusual. They occurred every two or three years. This one, though, seemed more violent, closer, with more damage. That’s when her brother, Leos, called that a wall had cracked and in danger of collapse. Thecla and her mother, Theoclia, hurried to the steps to the back entrance to answer Leos’ call.

“What has happened?” Theoclia asked.

“There is a large crack in the north wall, just above the steps,” Leos reported.

“Do you think it will hold?”

“It’s hard to say. It doesn’t show on the outside, so it might not have gone completely through.”

“That’s possible. We’ll try to get Alexander, the stone mason to look at it later today or tomorrow. Will you please try to find him and ask when he can look at it?”

“Yes, Mother, I’ll start searching for him now. He’ll probably be busy.”

“Yes, I’m sure he will be. I wonder how many other homes have been damaged.”

“Probably several, so I might be gone for a while.”

“Yes, please be careful,”

Theoclia and Thecla returned to the living quarters and returned to their needlework. Sewing and weaving took many hours of their days. The material was woven in long sheets to be cut and sewn into robes for everyday wear. A loom took at least half the space of one room, positioned near a window to provide light and ample, air movement for the comfort of the weaver. Theoclia was an accomplished weaver, Thecla was learning. She studied and practiced weaving every day. It was an important craft to learn to make her a good wife, along with cooking.

“I hope Leos will be able to find Alexander,” Theoclia commented to Thecla.

“I’m sure he will, if he doesn’t stop to help people who are having worse problems than us,” Thecla replied.

“Yes, he’s learned well. He should try to help others but, right now, we need help too.”

“Agreed. He’ll do his best, I think.”

Silence ensued as both women went back to work. The slap, bump, slap of the loom made the only noise in the house. Voices could be heard from the street, with an occasional scream or yelp.


Thecla and her mother put down their weaving and sewing tasks to begin to make dinner. They baked bread in the outdoor oven in the back of the house. Thecla proceeded to mix the dough and knead it for baking. She formed a perfect round ball, flattened it somewhat and slid it into the oven. She proceeded to watch the oven to maintain the even heat and time it so as not to over bake it. In the meantime, Theoclia prepared the olives, nuts and fruit to accompany the meal. It was nearly meal time and Leos had not arrived.

Theoclia called out to Thecla, “Do you see Leos anywhere?”

“No, Mother, I was wondering about him too.”

“I hope he’s all right. How is the bread?”

“It will be done soon, Mother. Should we eat or wait for Leos?”

“I think we should eat, he’ll be along and, if he hasn’t already eaten, he can eat when he gets back.”


“All right Mother, the bread is done. I’m bringing it in.”

Both women sat to eat. The bread was hot and filling, the olives were tasty, the fruit was sweet. They’d just finished eating when Leos bounded up the back stairs to the kitchen.

“Sorry, Mother, I’ve been all over most of the town. There is a large amount of damage. I found Alexander. He said he’d come over tomorrow to look at our damage. Then I stopped to listen to two men preaching about God. I think their names were Paul and Barnabas, or something like that. They seemed so intent on spreading their word, I just couldn’t walk away.”

“I understand, Leos. We were beginning to worry. You had been gone so long,” said Theoclia.

I wonder who the new preachers are, thought Thecla. I’ve not heard those names before. Maybe they’ll come by our street and I’ll hear them. I’ve been wanting to hear about this new religion with only one God for everything. The Roman gods sound confusing and silly. I just can’t make myself believe in them.

“What did these preachers look like?” Thecla asked.

“They’d been traveling. They were dusty and needed a bath, a change of clothes and some water to drink. Their voices were a little hard to hear,” Leos said.

“What colors were their robes?” Thecla asked.

“I’m not sure. I think brown not red, though. They weren’t Romans, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Leos said.

“No, they probably weren’t Romans if they were talking about one God,” Thecla reasoned.

“What does it matter?” Theoclia said. “There are always some kind of preachers coming through here, Thecla; I’m wondering why you’re so interested.”

“Because I like the ‘one God’ approach to religion,” Thecla stated.

“Well, here we go again. You know that’s against Caesar. You’ll get us all in trouble if you keep that up,” Theoclia stated.

“Yes,” Leos piped up. “That might even make trouble for Father in the Roman army. He’s trying to earn a Centurion position, remember.”

“Yes, it could spell trouble for your father, if word gets out, which it surely will; and Leos wants to follow in his father’s footsteps in another few years,” Theoclia said.

That won’t stop me from learning as much as I can about the ‘one God’. Maybe I’ll follow the preachers too. The Romans will never know. They don’t know who I am nor do they care. It’s not going to be a problem for Father or Leos, Thecla thought.


Some days later, Thecla sat by the window busily engaged on a sewing task. She listened to the hub bub on the street below. Suddenly, the sounds changed, voices softened and two men approached the steps to the fountain. One appeared to walk with a limp, maybe slightly disfigured. The other one was older, robust and helped the one who limped climb the steps. They stood, looking at the crowd and the crowd hushed.

“That’s them,” Leos said, as he stood behind Thecla.

Startled, she said, “Who?”

“The ones I told you about last night.”

“Go find something to do while I listen to them.”

“Why do you want to listen to them? It might be considered treason.”

“Oh, hush. Go away.”

“I’m going to get Mother.”

“She went out. Leave her out of this. Now, go.”

Leos shuffled out of the room. Thecla was able to settle in the window to listen.