Zenodotus was nervously sitting in a palace in Rome waiting to meet with the Emperor. After he returned to Alexandria from Paulsland, his glass lenses that corrected his vision made a great stir among the upper echelons of Alexandria. Word quickly reached the Emperor thanks to Zenodotus’s political enemies, that his eyes had been fixed, and the Emperor sent a message for Zenodotus to immediately come to Rome with all haste. He wanted to know how Zenodotus’s eyes had been fixed. It was well known that the Emperor had dim eyes, and Zenodotus was afraid he would lose his glass lenses. If he wanted to continue as a scribe and the head librarian, he needed to see.
After waiting an hour, a Praetorian Guard showed up and led him through the palace. Zenodotus was so nervous he did not notice the splendor, architecture, artwork, or sculptures. He was so afraid of losing the clear vision he had; he forgot to enjoy the sights. Finally, the guard brought him to a closed door and held out his hand. Zenodotus immediately handed him a silver coin as it was always wise to bribe the Praetorian guards. The guard smiled and opened the door, and Zenodotus stepped through and laid eyes on Emperor Domitian.
The Emperor looked exactly like his statue. His face was plain, his nose was round, and he wore a wig to hide his baldness. Zenodotus quickly mentally corrected himself, the Emperor had a wonderful head of hair, and he better not think anything else because if his tongue slipped, he would not survive. Emperor Domitian was sensitive about his baldness.
The Emperor spoke first, “Zenodotus, I am told you went on a trip down the coast of Africa in the hopes of fixing your eyesight, and when you returned your eyes were no longer dim. How did this happen?”
“I went to a nation that just reached the coast of the Erythraean sea. The nation's name is Paulsland, named after their king, and the people are very clever. The people shape glass so that someone with dim eyesight can see well.” Zenodotus did not want to mention the glass he was currently wearing; he hoped the Emperor would overlook it.
“Is that why you are wearing those glass circles in front of your eyes? Did they fix your eyesight?”
Zenodotus decided to tell the whole truth in the hopes that he would be able to keep his glasses and said, “When I was there, they had a large box filled with these glass circles, and they put the glass circles in front of my eyes one at a time until we found glass circles that helped me see the best. Apparently, different eyes need different glass circles. The glass circles that I am wearing are best for my eyes, but if you needed glasses to help your eyes lose their dimness, then those people called the lens crafters would have to go through their glass circles to find the best fit for your eyes.”
“Zenodotus, it's well known my eyes are dim and have been so for most of my adult life. In fact, I am pleased that you have found a cure for the dimness of my eyes. Now hand me those glasses. It is unseemly for a scribe to have a cure while an emperor suffers.”
Zenodotus inwardly sighed as he took off his glasses, for the last time, and handed them to the Emperor. The Emperor studied the glasses and their wooden frames then put them on his head. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the lenses, and when they did, he smiled brightly.
“WOW! THAT’S MUCH BETTER!” The Emperor began looking around the palace and marveled at its splendor. “Later today, I am going over to the new palace still under construction and inspecting it. These things are amazing.” Then the Emperor looked back at Zenodotus and said, “You say that the glassmakers can make glass circles that can improve my eyesight further?”
The emperor turned to one of the Praetorian guards that Zenodotus hadn’t noticed and said, “Send word to Egypt immediately, that a Roman ship is to go down to this Paulsland and return with a glassmaker. I want glass that improves my eyesight as much as possible. This will be worth many talents of gold.”
The Praetorian guard smiled and said, “Yes, sir.” Clearly, the Praetorian would get some of that gold.
“Zenodotus tell me about Paulsland.”
“They are a very clever people, but they are also superstitious and blasphemous.”
Emperor Domitian’s smile disappeared, and he asked, “Blasphemous?”
“Yes. During a conversation I had with the king of Paulsland, he casually mentioned using the power of Zeus and Apollo.” The Emperor looked confused for a second, and Zenodotus corrected himself, “I mean Jupiter and Phoebus. For some reason, king Paul used the god's Greek names.”
“If the king is so brash to claim the power of the gods, do the people worship him?”
Zenodotus knew this was a loaded question. Emperor Domitian encouraged the worship of the Roman and Egyptian gods while making his family into gods alongside them in the imperial cult. So Zenodotus had to answer carefully, “King Paul is not worshipped by his people. Instead, his people have a strange superstition. They believe they should bind the land and the rivers. Once the land and rivers are bound, they will be safe from famine and drought. I even heard one say that in time if they bind the land well enough, they will be safe from floods. It’s a superstition that appears to have the people contending with the gods.”
The Emperor began looking extremely unhappy. He was well known for his commitment to the gods and asked, “How far away is Paulsland?”
“Weeks of travel by boat from the Red Sea port.”
“if they were closer, I would invade. Our gods would grant us an easy victory. Alas, they are too far away. I imagine a future emperor will have to conquer them. Did they have any other strange superstitions.?”
“Yes. They said that their king flew on a giant arrow before he came to their land and that he came from a people that used boiling water to move wagons.”
“Very strange. You mentioned that despite their blasphemy and superstitions, they are clever people. Besides their glass that helps men see how are they clever?”
“Well, they do not have the great aqueducts like Rome, nor do they have water wheels powering industry, but they are clever in their own way. For instance, they had these really clever devices called spinning wheels that help women make thread far faster than with a spindle. I bought several for my wife and daughters. The women love them because they have much more time during the day to do the other female tasks, like preparing meals.”
“Um, no, sir. Their farms use a weird pumping system to water their fields. They build large towers with a cistern on top; then, they use a portable fountain to pump water up to it. On the top of the tower, they have a windwheel that spins as the wind blows, and they have a system of ropes and gears that attach to the pump that pumps water from the river to the cistern. When they need to water their fields, they just open a valve at the bottom of the tower, and water flows from the cistern out to the fields.”
“What a waste. They should use slaves to pump water.”
“I agree, but when I asked the people about their slaves, they said their king outlawed slavery.”
“When he goes to war, what will he do with all the captured prisoners? It would be barbaric to execute them all, besides selling slaves can recoup the money spent on a campaign.”
“I am not clear on that detail. I can say that Paulsland had very impressive fortifications. They did not have palaces, artwork, or sculptures, but their walls were taller than the walls surrounding Rome.” Zenodotus winced as he said those words.
The Emperor noticed Zenodotus’s wince and said, “I am not insulted by your observation. If Rome needed taller walls, I would have them built, but Rome is safe. We control the entire peninsula, and if an enemy were to try to attack Rome, they would have to go over mountains, rivers, and through fortresses, cities, and legions. Rome needs to focus on the finer things in life whereas the borders of Rome can focus on fortifications.”
Zenodotus signed in relief. Then the Emperor asked, “Any other clever designs? Anything actually useful to Rome?”
“Oh yes, there was one thing. When I showed up to their port city and announced to the government that I was the Head Librarian of Alexandria, the government officials sent word to their king, and he sent word back in just three hours that I was to come to the capital to meet with him. The thing is, the king was in the capital when he got word and sent it back, and the capital was three days from the port.”
The Emperor was surprised and asked, “How did they send a message so fast?”
“They have turned their alphabet into a series of dots and dashes. For instance, dot, dot, dot might mean alpha, and dot, dash, dot might mean beta. They can send these dots as far as the eye can see, so they built tall towers across their nations, and they can send short messages very quickly all across their country.”
In wide-eyed wonder, the Emperor said, “That’s so simple. I am surprised a Roman didn’t think of it. Zenodotus, you are no longer the head librarian of Alexandria; you are now the leader in charge of building these towers.”
From a Chrono Physicists' perspective, this was the biggest change in the timeline so far. So many stones were sent to different places than they were in the original timeline. They loved this data. Major changes just gave them easier to read data than minor ones.