The Big Top
The year is 1913, and the Circus is in town. But this is not just any circus. This is the Circus Maximus, descendent of the original Circus Maximus of pre-Imperial Rome. And its performers (Kinks in circus argot) are not just tricksters and acrobats. They are instead the superhuman guardians of the fate of empires, entrusted with the safety of the Brass Ring, the most powerful artifact in human history.
“To Grab the Brass Ring” means striving for the highest prize, or living life to the fullest.
This phrase is derived from the brass rings on found carousels in circuses and carnivals. Brass ring devices were developed during the heyday of the carousel in the U.S.—about 1880 to 1921. At one time, the riders on the outside row of horses were often given a the challenge of grabbing a single brass ring suspended above them from among many iron rings. Anyone who was successful at grabbing this ring was granted a small prize, often a repeat ride.
Over 2500 years ago, the first Etruscan king of Rome built a raised, wooden perimeter of seating around an oblong track. Thus, the Circus Maximus was born.
In 520 BCE, that king’s grandson, Tarquinius Superbus, began building up the Circus with stone benches and religious shrines. At that time, he commissioned the creation of a torus of brass, 2 inch thick brass, 2 feet in diameter, and weighing 140 lbs: the original Brass Ring. This Ring is inscribed in ancient Etruscan with suplications Dis Pater, Etruscan god of the Underworld. These prayers to Dis implored Him to allow the wisdom of all Roman Spirits to provide wisdom to the leaders of the Roman Nation, and for those Sprits to lend their strength to its Champions.
For the next 600 years, the Ring absorbed the power of the growing Roman conquest, and from its power, Champions were formed. infused with the manifest will of Empire as expressed by the spirits of the past and focussed through the Ring, these Champions were stronger, tougher, faster, and smarter than normal men and woman. During times of peace, they performed for the masses, using their talents to entertain, and absorbing strength from the cheers of those around them. But during times of crisis, they would venture forth to the front lines of a conflict to serve and advance the will of Rome.
Then, in 70 AD, at the command of the Emperor Vespatian, the Ring was excavated and reentombed beneath the foundations of the Colosseum, just then starting construction. During the transfer, Vespatian had priests of Orcus (Roman name for Dis) add inscriptions in Latin. The new location and the new language reflected the new Imperial character of the Roman nation.
200 years later, as the center of moved East to Byzantium, the Ring went with it; this time, to beneath the Hippodrome, with inscriptions to HAdes in Greek.
And so it went, down through Western history. From Byzantium to the decadent harems of the Ottoman Sultans, to the Inquisition dungeons of the Spainish Hapsburgs, to the court intrigues of Versaille. As Empires rose and fell, the Ring went to the epicenter of power. At each new resting place, the Ring was enscribed with a prayer to Dis in language of the conquerors. And in each place, the ring focused the character of the spirits of the place, guiding its rulers, and spawning new Champions.
The Ring and the Will of Empire
Though the secrets are the Circle of Empire have rarely been examined in any rigorous manner, its general mechanism was perhaps best described by John Dee, the court wizard of Elizabeth I. Dee, who was responsible for suggesting that the Ring be buried beneath the stage of the Globe Theater, wrote the following in his secret tract On the Will of Empyres (1601):
The Ring doth serve as a Focus for the Will of the unnumbered ancestral Spirits of the Subjects of Empyre. By focussing that Collective Will, the Ring takes that otherwyse Diffuse forse, and maketh it into a Powere of immense Strength, like unto a Whirlwind, Tide, or Floode.
But the most cruxial Aspecte of the Majick in the Ring, that which maketh it of great Potence and Efficacee, is to keepeth those innumerable Spirits Focussed on directing the Present Course of Empyre by retaining their Attention. And the Manner to retain the Attention of those Spirits is to keep them amused.
And in such Manner, though it may take Decades or Centurys, the Character of the Empyre seemeth Manifest, in great Force and Majesty, from the Character of that amusement.
And thus, the Circus Maximus
The American Empire
The Ring was brought from England to America in 1654 by dissident members of the Rump Parliment, fleeing the wrath of the dictator Oliver Cromwell. For a centuries, it lay dormant beneath the pulpit of Cotton Mather’s North Church.
With the Great War just behind the nation, the Brass Ring is carried from cow town to steel town, whistlestop to spindletop, through the heartland of America.