Roma rediviva II


Finally, Drest was cornered. He sallied because there were no more food in town, they were starting to eat their young ones…. All the rats, dog have been eaten. Except Drest’s horses… Each one of them eat for ten poor people….

He finally showed up, killing a good joke. It is true, it wasn’t fog that day. Placus gathered his men when he saw the movement and told them to expect more, because he knew that a new nobleman from Hibernia just landed. But the men just laught – “If Drest manage to find the way to us, it will not matter how many they will be….”

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When he managed to get to our lines Drest was somehow uneasy. He expected his fame as warrior to send our men fleeing in terror.

But where he put his horse he saw just laughter and merry men. He was pointed with fingers and every roman in his neighbourhoud was shaken by laughter.

He understood quick he was the source of the fun but he didn’t knew why. He spurred his horse in a cohort of limitanei… But he never knew why the spear which pierced him had a map attached to it….

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But the fun wasn’t over even after his death… The celt reinforcements took the long way around their own village… They managed to be late and came only to be massacrated….

When Placus entered the former Celt fortress he was shocked to see how many dead bodies lied around, how many empty houses… But there were some houses full and some very well fed people. Most of them were noble Celts, trying to hide beneath poor people clothes. For them Placus showed no mercy. They were killed to the last one and every food in their houses was given to the poorer ones. He sent even to Londinium to establish a convoy for food… But he he hopes for the future, these Celts will be new citizens, like those in Londinium and Eburacum.

Finally the northern Britain was in our hands, a deed that Claudius, Hadrian and Severus failed…. We can be proud… Poorer but proud.

We heard stories that the celts were so frightened by Placus so they surnamed him Arcturus, the Bear, in their language…. And spoke of his spatha like a magic sword….

Placus smiled and fuelled the legend a little by showing his beautiful sister, Morgana, as a witch (she knew some tricks of magic learned in Rome – she knew how to make a coin appear and dissapear, she showed multicolored scarfs appearing from her guests togae… For the commoners, unused to the shows of Rome this was really magic!).

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And they send a messenger to Eburacum to plea for peace….

When Servius heard he was elated with joy. He allowed Placus a triumph (even if the Christians mumbled something about fake Gods) and granted the peace to the Celts. After all, who wants to get to a remote island for few barbarians….

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Beside that we have no fleet in all those waters… How can we get to Hibernia if we have no ships…. Piracy is worrying. They managed to harass even the mighty Saxon fleets.

Placus have send me a currier. He was very concerned about some concentrations of Saxon elite troops near the shores of Frisia. He didn’t know why and asked for help. I talked myself with his trooper and learned that the roman merchants complain that everything they could bought in Saxony is no more available but they are compelled to sell every bar of iron, every amphorae of wine and oil available. They do not know from where so poor Germans have so much money. Nevertheless they selled everything, despite better judgment…. With Placus away nobody stopped them to get richer..

My wisdom had payed well. The young Spurius had made a pretty good job in Aquincum and strenghtened the walls, recruited troops and trained them. Word of his merrits spread througout the gothic lands and even further to Sarmatians and Lombardi… In decades there wasn’t such an activity in Aquincum. Troops marched up and down in the plains near the walls, listening to commands, every storage room was filled with grains and weapons… He was the first to rise in the morning and the last to go to bed. And even then the guards and townspeople saw the lamp lighted as he was busy reading reports and giving orders. No wonder that the first strike of Valens hit here!

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For a Christian (and he made the whole province Christian…) it wasn’t a bad fighter. Even if he brought priests to the battlefield (in a secret report he stated that the easterners are afraid of the priests and this make them uneasy when they charge)…

But his situation was desperate. He had a single comitatenses cohort, the rest being provincials trained by him. He put some hopes in an alae of Sarmatians and most in the walls of the fortress. He gathered his men in the center of the town and spoke to them: “All the citizen of this town are afraid. Those who attacks us are our brothers. They speak the same language as us. Five years ago we were fighting side by side. We are here to defeat Italy, Gaul, Illyria, Iberia from Goths, Huns and Vandals. So let’s put these men to sword so they may never dare to attack again. We are here to stay!”

They cheered him but the looks in their eyes told the opposite. This was his first battle and he was unlucky enough to have against him a better general and better troops.

But he wasn’t a man to backdown. He harangued his troops a little more: “Men, when the empire was divided between two emperors, we lost the fruits for which our ancestors faught centuries ago. When Caesar conquered Gaul here were some poor shepherds. Now we have a province rich, both in citizens and farms. Those citizens are your brothers, your sons, your wives and your doughters. You may flee and let me die here, as I have made my oath. But do you think that you will be safe in future from the barbarian menace? Do you think that any other governor will defend you as I promise you, to my death and beyond?” Now those provincials understood what was in stake… And they stroke their shields and gnashed their teeth, praising the young general…

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He gathered them in the town’s square. He said to them: you cannot keep the walls against the comitatenses of the easterner. Our power lies in our numbers and in our coordination. They trusted him but they have to face comitatenses, sarmatians and a cruel general…One who never let somebody alive….

But Spurius was undaunted. Trust in me, I will lead you to victory today….

To the great amazement of everybody….he was right…and there were such few losses on our side that Spurius was seen in their eyes even greater than Julian…

Tired by the long walk in the city the eastern cohorts were faced with pilla and flaming arrows… (some of our legionaries not even thrusted all their pilla!).  Spurius and his bodyguard, aided by the alea of sarmatians, were everywhere, encouraging the men, charging the enemy cohorts. The battle was over when Spurius killed the eastern general… The rest of the cohorts run… A disgrace for every roman..But a very good news for Severus…

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The spring of 368 came with few denarii in our coffers. Just 79. But Felix was confident…. He said: “We will be better”. And he showed me how he raised a fleet in Britain.

I spoke to that currier of Placus, too. Sometimes you  argue with me for investing in trade. Some of those merchants were in contact with me. The grains were moulded and the iron was brittle. But there too many greedy romans… Some grains were good and some iron was of the best quality… But here are some recruitment scrolls. We have a fleet in Britain, raised from moulded grain and brittle iron but made of healthy wood and true roman heart. Don’t thank me. It hurts me to see the price for it… But we need there a fleet, you told me that last year.

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I couldn’t tell him, yet. But I knew even better… In the papers Spurius took from Manius the Mean he found that the denarii of the rebels were kept in Avaricum. But, even more beautiful, the stipendia that Valens were paying them were kept in the same place! I handled that information to Severus and he ordered a quick assault on the rebell fortress.

The whole of the Gaul army, lead by Cnaeus Flavius, invested Avaricum with many siege towers. Those were high walls, raised by Constantius… But Cnaeus had with him three comitatenses cohorts, many of them having fathers who served with Julian. They had no special love for Valentinian but they were fond of Servius, as a kin to Julian and Cnaeus was related to Servius. They have heard how Marcus put down the power of the Alemanni and even if Franks roamed near the border they were peacefull and ready to trade. So they climbed quite quick the walls and slayed the rebelious scum hired by eastern money…

The town was duly burned down and from its treasury we recovered 16 000 denarii… And a more good surprise… When Valentinian died he ordered building Christian churches in all the rebellious provinces. He said that Christians aren’t inclined to rebel because they fight too much amongst them (well, I knew that was Julian’s idea but … !). So there were more christians in Avaricum and more peacefull ones…especially as they saw the bodies of the rebel scum hanged by the walls and let there to be food for the crows.

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When Felix saw that treasure entering his coffers I almost could see his hair becoming black again….

He started to mumble – a port in Massilia, an aqueduct in Carthage, a road to Milan….

I stopped him. “Felix, the emperor will not suffer for ever to not have a proper army…” He raised his head to me and said. “I know. But….”

I said, gently: “We will keep a part here but we will send him some money. Because he has some plans. And we need to protect Italy….” This was MY duty. And I started to raise a full legion in Rome. Since the battle of Mulvian Bridge no army was ever raised here. Constantine the Great went to Constantinople, the italian dux were governing from Ravenna. Even the prefect was in Ravenna. Just Valentinian moved to Rome. And Servius named me comes Italiae… Not a dux, a comes…

A year later, the celts, lulled by morons, attacked us in Dal Raida.

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But Placus is not a man to be tampered with. He send a scroll to the emperor, via Rome, so I read his words, words for a roman. A true one.

He said the celts are up again but he asked what to do with them after he will conquer Hibernia and put an end to their nation….

The emperor’s answer were just three words: Kill them all….

No wonder the Constantinopolitans are mocking him as an executioner….

Their time will come..

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When the emperor’s answer came, Placus was already in Hibernia… He said he will pass the winter there. A chilling thought… But that was not before he smash through the celtic army like a knife through butter… They run like mad dogs when they saw him charging, with his sword and his sarmatians yelling in their barbaric language near him… Oh, I heard the celts believe now that the Bear (funny, Placus confesed he had a little tamed bear at his villa!) is the one who will protect forever their island! No one will land on their soil without Arcturus(or Arthurus, as our men pronounced it) leaving his grave and aiding in repelling the invaders (however they recognise he is a Roman subject so we are not tagged as… invaders!).

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Felix came to me: So, my fleet is ok? I believed he asked for thanks because of his forethought we have it and I started to say something about his financial genius. He cut me short: No, I know that! I asked you if my fleet is at full complement and you and your army boys didn’t matched it with some pirates or enemy fleet. We have no money to replace the lost timbers and the drowned sailors!
For the first time in years I laughed from all my heart… He became so imbued with the task of keeping the treasury safe that he no longer knew anything else.

I asked him how he had enjoyed himself last Saturnalia. He crossed my words! I am a Christian… I have other feasts. Yes, some of my house were very amused in those days. I just counted how much money were spent…

I took his hand. Felix, you will come with me three weeks at Baiae. There are some denarii in emperor’s coffers. He needs you alive! You will die of exhaustion like your great uncle. We need you.

His eyes looked through me: I have to order some…

In this moment I spoke loud: It is an order from the emperor! I asked him to order that. The empire will survive without your help three weeks. Besides, the new Caesar, Gallus is ready to take over Rome in our absence, as his father wants him to learn how to rule…

In Gaul, the rebels were so raised by the loss of Avaricum that they send Maximianus (this name seems to be labeled to rebellion) to face the conqueror of Avaricum, Cnaeus Flavius.

They were wrong. Cnaeus had with him four cohort of comitatenses….

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He put them on the line, with limitanei on flanks and unleashed all the arrows and pilla on the rebells.

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They broke and fled… Cnaeus not even smiling drove on, to catch them before they lock themselves in Burdigala… He couldn’t catch them… They were so frightened that they loosed all the gear and were entering in Burdigala like mere coloni….But in their ranks were many foederati that were disbanded. At least Valentinian was right: no foederati can fight as our legions can.

The next year Placus laid siege to the king of Hibernia. But the treacherous Saxons landed in Southern Britannia and sorrounded Londinium. The celts had summoned them, to be relieved by their scourge, Placus (now they say he is a legendary horseman and his Sarmatians are gods on horses)… But Placus put confidence in Londinium’s new walls…and said: I have no time to get to Londinium now. I will finish the celts then to Londinium. He asked that every men capable to fight on the walls….

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A last mockery of the celts, a peace treaty, is met with contempt, as they no longer control their saxon allies…

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And their last king is killed on the battlefield…

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Their treasure is sent to Rome but dire news came in the spring of 371…

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At least the saxons didn’t killed to many…. My spies said that they are preparing to settle in Britain. That will be unconceivable…

So thinks Servius too…He ordered to Marcus, with few more cohorts of comitatenses to march towards the saxons. Placus was already on his way to Londinium. Marcus, now renamed for his apetite to gamble, marched unopposed and laid siege to one of the new saxon conquest, in Frisia….

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In Rome my spies brought news around the world. I knew how we stand. It is good but it is place for better.

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The emperor pacified Spain. Carthago Nova was punished for the treachery and some properties confiscated. Enough to sustain our treasury….

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Having some money Servius ordered Titus Flavius to run a campaign against the berbers.They were raiding near Carthage some farms but they always claimed that those were nomad tribes and the Berber king had no authority… But Titus Flavius saw two armies roaming near Lepcis Magna. That province had no defence at all. Carthage had those comitatenses transferred from Sicily and some locals… Titus said you couldn’t trust a son of desert unless it was a dead one. Me and Felix also advised him the same way, Carthage wasn’t safe as long berbers were around. Without Carthage we will have no grain and our empire could die… So Titus took a kin and marched through the desert…

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In north the saxons want to fight. Marcus, along with Gratian, stand fast against some of the best noblemen of Saxon…

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Even the son of their petty king is on the battlefield. We didn’t knew that when Marcus sieged Campus Frisii… That explains why the saxons halted every offensive in Britain and every men they have is attacking Marcus… He and Gratian had a hard time fighting those saxons. He was fortunate, the saxon infantry was mostly formed by levies (their best troops were in Britain). But he trapped a lot of nobles in Campus Frisii (they were waiting their ships to cross in Britain… Marcus told me how their ships were – they were long, much longer than ours. They have oars and a vella but they have a better speed. Fortunately, they have no ram so our triremes can handle well in battle. The quinquiremes can destroy almost every ship they can man.. But they have many ships and they have no slaves. Their soldiers handle the oars! )

But they are soon dead… Marcus has orders to let no one alive. Servius ordered a sustained offensive toward their lands in order to help Placus to regain London… there are almost two years since the saxons ocuppied it and the lack of the London docks is taking a big toll on Felix. Afte his forced vacation (he isn’t even married… ) he is well now and is working side by side with me. We prepare a surprise for Servius, when he will return to Rome, after pacifying the last rebel stronghold in Gallia.

From the desert of Sahara comes news of an another fight

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But Titus is a brave warrior. He knew how berbers flee… So he left no one to flee !

But from east came dire news… The huns are here. Their reputation preceded them. They lay siege to Sirmium (perhaps that is why our eastern brothers never came to attack again since Spurius defetead them). However the huns are much worse… The Christians have surnamed them The Scourge of God…They are so terified… But Sirmium is holding. For now…

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The next year brought us again a bad treasury. Felix said it was the loss of Londinium only that makes us so poor. The emperor was not pleased. At least the huns are ravaging around Sirmium but the defenses are holding and they kill a lot of huns… We should send them some help. But we have nothing to spare… And Servius didn’t forgot their treachery. I formed an embassy and make arrangements to get them to the new emperor of the East, Gallus (same name as our Caesar). He took residence in Alexandria (he is a Philosopher and spends many hours in the famous Library).

We have at least new generals! Servius found a boy who is a genius in comanding troops. Nero Flavius just entered in manhood and was send with maximum speed to take over Marcus comandment. Marcus didn’t took it too well. He even threatned to retreat to his villa and cultivate peaches and cherries. But after he saw the new commander he was glad to serve under him…. It is true that Gratian’s example helped a lot (there is a rumour that Gratian is happy to be in campaign all the time only because his mother in law is making his life miserable… She is an old crone but she can’t endure the cold winters of Belgica…).

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The summer of 374 found Placus siegeing Londinium. He is intrepid. He ordered admiral Asterius, commander of the precious fleet of Felix, to go to Samarobriva to be repaired (fortunately the prefect of Gaul will see of that, Felix will know nothing… At least until it will be done). But Placus asked emperor to siege Londinium and not to assault the mighty walls… He said that his troops are too depleted by the cold winter in Hibernia to be effective in the field. But they are at home and he knew that saxons could get no help from continent, where Nero, the new commander is slaying many Saxons, as they came in waves to save the heir to throne….

Near Sirmium the situation is bad. The Huns mounted an assault which was repulsed (a fugitive from one of the alani horsemen dragged as allies by huns arrived at Aquincum and told everything).

He said that the Huns employed engineers from some rebels of east and erected huge siege towers, hired miners from Goths and sapped the walls… Half of their horde waited for the walls to crumble and their slaves to carry the siege tower near the walls… But the legionaries inside fought like true romans and slain so many Huns… But there were so many…. the fight lasted a week…. The Hun lord regrouped those who fled and brought them back to the fray… untill all the Huns refused to get back… They stopped the bloody fight and started to starve the garrison.

I asked some merchants who came from Ctesiphon (sad days… to ask Sassanids about romans…) why didn’t the emperor of the east send help for Sirmium… They said that there were many troops in Asia but few in Europe. But they mentioned a rich embassy send to Huns. I fear that the easterners try to pay the Huns to attack Italy. I asked Servius to broke a deal with the rebels (he could forgive some of them in order to restore peace). He replied he had a better solution. The lands that Nero will conquer from Saxons will be given to them. When the rebel will submit to his autorithy. And he added that there is no quarter given to the ringleaders…

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Nero actually managed to win the siege with minimal losses. Marcus was bewildered how Nero used to move the cohorts on the field, how he used archers but the credit, as Nero himself mentioned to his soldiers and the emperor, must go to Marcus and Gratian who trained the troops all those years, from the death of Valentinian…

And a good news. For the first time since Julian we are again the mightiest. Servius keep talking that I am responsable for a lot of the credit.

I am good but not that good. Himself must be credited for that (orders to gain provinces while we still have a civil war, reducing rebels to nothing) but the man who deserves the most credit is Felix.

We can have many generals but a treasurer like him you find in centuries….

In ten years we put the empire back where it was when Julian died…

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Finally the rebels are doomed. The emperor himself is siegeing Burdigala. They sallied…. They do not know Servius….

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He asked for Gallus, his son, to come along. To understand that an empire is maintained by good generalship… The gold might pay for iron but if you do not know to wield it….

Gallus obliged. He was a good manager but it was the time to gain experience in the field…

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At least we have peace all over the empire. The western half. No more rebellions, no more citizen to kill each other… Good news. Servius ordered convoys of rebels to be formed and put on the roads to Belgica. They will be settled there… as a buffer agains barbarians. If they die there is no loss for us… If they survive… at least they will teach saxons some civilised manners…

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The bad news is that Sirmium seems to not stand for long but the worst news is that Vandals are coming with speed towards Aquincum. I sent enough denarii and men to Spurius. But also told him that he is the only obstacol between Vandals and Italy. He is the thin red line between barbary and civilization. He answered, simply: I will succeed, even if I have to die for that. My answer was: live, because if you die who can take your place?

In Africa Titus Flavius was marching towards Tingis when he was called back to Dimmidi. A new berber army was gathering around Dimmidi. The fresh troops, recruited among merchants and workers, were afraid.. He sighed but marched back and attacked the berbers furiously.

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He caught the berbers in a valley. He waited for the troops from Dimmidi but there was no sign of them. He ordered a tribune to bring back the heads of those responsable for that, adding: We do not need them but they are romans, they were supposed to be here, near us….and sounded the charge.

The berbers couldn’t stand the assault of the legions and started to panic. Some of them were never to be caught….

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Except for their general. He, somehow, managed to get around our troops and smashed in our archers. When Titus saw that charged himself the berber lord. But that coward run away….

With Vandals marching straight to Aquincum, Huns roaming free in Iliria….what will bring us the future?

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