Monday, July 6, 2015

The Defeat at Dyrrachium

It was the third watch of the night when Pompey attacked. 

Julius Caesar peered at the distant battle from the rampart of his fortifications. The air was filled with metallic clangs and piercing cries. The land between his fortifications and Pompey’s was spread out like a map, but alive with violence and death. The multitude of torches carried by the legionaries swarmed on the battlefield, mimicking the undulating movement of a giant beast in throes of agony. Despite the distance and the darkness, Caesar knew exactly which of those points of light belonged to his legionaries. He had trained them himself in battle formations, and he could follow their familiar movements as they changed formation and tactics. He felt proud that ‘his’ torches were matching Pompey’s and not backing down.

“Look there,” one of his bodyguards shouted, pointing way into the distance. 

Something was moving there—just a hint of shimmering at first, much further than where the battle raged. Slowly the view cleared—multiple dots of light were bouncing steadily towards the battle zone.

What is Pompey up to?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Ships of Armorica

Julius Caesar stood atop a cliff and surveyed the wreckage scattered near the coast. Twenty Romans ships were smashed to pieces, slowly sinking into the choppy waters of the Atlantic. His legionaries flailed their limbs in the water, most being hunted down, a lucky few swimming ashore. 

“Stop ramming their ships,” Caesar shouted. 

The trumpet bearers tooted twice. The coastline filled with their blares, and the Roman ships still engaged in a last desperate attempt backed off.

Caesar glanced across the ocean one more time, considering his options. Every attack on the enemy had brought him humiliation. His tactics at sea had failed. Even ramming the enemy ships had been fruitless. The wreckage that lay before his eyes — drowning men and demolished ships — was the proof of his enemy's superiority on water.

“Sound the retreat,” he finally said, as the sun dipped towards the horizon, almost sheepishly hiding beneath the edge of the ocean.

It had been a long summer full of mistakes.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Wall of Avaricum

“Hurry up, you lot,” Caesar shouted as the legionaries carried piles of timber up the ramp. “Keep moving. Less than ten feet to bridge the gap.”

There was a sudden movement in the corner of his eye. Caesar ducked instinctively.  A fire-tipped arrow swooshed past where his head had been, filling the air with acrid smoke. Missing Caesar, it found its mark on a helpless pile of timber. The dry wood erupted into flames.

Somebody jeered loudly from above.

Caesar looked up in rage. A helmet covered face grinned down at him from the top of the wall. Wretched Gaul. Caesar raised his fist, but the villain continued to guffaw and point back. Caesar clenched his teeth and pretended to ignore the insult after the ‘attempted’ injury.

Cowards. That is not the way men fight. Hiding behind walls, mocking and jeering instead of facing us and clashing metal.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

CV of Julius Caesar: Part 2

Today’s historical story is the continuation of last week’s, titled ‘CV of Julius Caesar: Part 1’. If you haven’t read it, please click here.

With the scribe gone in search of the rogue donkey, Julius paced about the bank of the Rubicon. He was disgusted with the Senators. Jealous old men. Some of them can not even climb on to a horse, let alone lead legions into battle. And now the very same men who have neither tasted blood nor the glory of victory expect me to disband my legion. Oh, what would Jupiter have me do?

Much to his surprise his thoughts went to the donkey and its antics. It had not surrendered to the scribe, or to him. Instead it had rebelled against all attempts at oppression, eventually running away. Even a donkey values its freedom over slavery. And yet—

A bright spark lit up within Caesar—and yet, I allow myself to be enslaved by the Senate. A donkey braver than me? This can not be— Legio XIII will not be disbanded. I will not surrender to the Senate.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

CV of Julius Caesar: Part 1

Julius Caesar strode along the grassy river-bank, his mind churning like the muddy current of the Rubicon. Behind him marched his faithful scribe, followed by a ‘mildly moody’ donkey trotting at a rebellious pace. The donkey kept trying to break free, straining against its reins and struggling to throw off the bags tied on its back. The scribe kept readjusting those bags, fearing damage to his precious scrolls and tablets within. Caesar marched on, oblivious to the ruckus. 

When the two men and the donkey turned around a curve of the river, they walked headlong into gusting wind. Caesar braced his cloak and ducked  behind the trunk of a large oak. The scribe and the donkey followed.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Consulship of Julius and Caesar

Bibulus and his gang stomped through the Forum, pushed people aside, and dashed up the steps of the temple where Julius Caesar had been addressing a gathering. Bibulus stood with his back to Caesar and faced the crowd, fuming.

“Go home, you scum. This bill will never be passed,” he yelled.

There was a stunned silence.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Julius Caesar wept...

It was hot, even within the temple. Julius took off his sandals and revelled in the coolness of the marble floor. Finally. As his eyes adjusted to the dimly lit interior, statues adorning the hall began to take shape. 

“Where is it?” he said to his companion, a Centurion.

“Further ahead, to the right, Quaestor,” replied the Centurion, addressing Julius according to his rank.

“Take me to it,” said Julius.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pirates of the Mediterranean

“You barbarous lot, you can never appreciate good poetry,” said Caesar, waving the parchment in the sea breeze. 

The men surrounding him guffawed at his reaction to their vulgar remarks. Disgusted, Caesar flung the parchment away. A brisk Mediterranean wind got hold of it, twirling it higher and higher, away from the group of seafaring men.

“It is not the poetry, but the Roman hand that wrote it,” said a small, sunburnt man, who appeared to be the leader. “The very hand that may soon part from its body if you keep up your impudent ways.”

This brought forth a new wave of raucous laughter. 

Pirate scum!