Sunday, August 30, 2015

King Tarquin and the Tall Poppy Syndrome

Four hundred years before Julius Caesar, Rome was a city-kingdom ruled by kings. The seventh king was the tyrant, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, often called Tarquin the Proud. Wanting to subjugate the neighbouring towns, Tarquin insisted that they sign treaties with Rome, and those who refused, did so at the risk of war.

One such town was Gabii. It had refused to sign the Roman treaty, and when attacked, did not succumb to the might of Tarquin the Proud. 

Tarquin hatched a plot and instructed his son, Sextus, to infiltrate Gabii. Pretending to be ill-treated by his father, Sextus sought asylum with the enemy. The people of Gabii welcomed the ‘wronged’ Roman prince with open arms. Once he had gained their confidence, Sextus sent a message to his father. ‘What next?’

Courtesy of Unsplash_Veronica Ivanov

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Julius Caesar scares the Elephants of Numidia

Julius Caesar clamped his palms upon his ears, but the sound of elephants trumpeting in the distance continued unabated. Shrill and ominous, the din emanating from the enemy camp sent a chill down his spine. It would go on all night and the following day. If his enemies were trying to intimidate him on the eve of battle, they were indeed succeeding.

His officers and Centurions huddled about in small groups within his tent. He had asked for their counsel, but so far no one had uttered a sensible word. The men spoke in hasty whispers with each other while avoiding eye contact with him. 

He banged his fist on the table. “Silence!”  

Little wooden replicas of cavalry and infantry flew in all directions, some scattering upon the maps and scrolls that lay spread before him.

“Has anyone got a plan?” Caesar demanded. “Any way to deal with these fiends?” 

An embarrassed silence fell within the tent. Caesar felt a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. 

These elephants will be the death of us.

Courtesy of Pixabay_pgeyr

Friday, August 28, 2015

Julius Caesar and the Mishap at Zela

The battle done, Julius Caesar turned his attention to dictating messages for his supporters back in Rome. In his tent sat his favourite scribe, Didius, scribbling on one papyrus after another, frantically keeping pace with Caesar’s thoughts. Beside Didius sat two teenage lads, similar to each other in build and facial features, but with an important exception: one was bald, while the other possessed a lush growth of curly, black hair.

“I have to send a message to the Senate urgently. That is the most important of all,” Caesar said, as he hurriedly concluded his speech to a prominent wine trader in Rome.

The papyrus on which Didius had been written was instantly whisked away by one of the lads and replaced by a pristine one. He had trained the lads well.

Caesar sat with folded arms, deep in thought. Having served Caesar for more than five years, Didius knew not to interrupt when he was planning. He was aware that Caesar was mulling upon his choice of words that would produce a favourable impact within the Senate. 

Caesar had a good many enemies in the Senate, and being an immaculate statesman, he exerted the full capacity of his literary prowess, aided by Didius’ stylus, to silence any loose tongue that might have the temerity to wag against him. 

A sudden clang outside and a rush of feet brought an end to Didius’ train of thoughts. Caesar had already leapt off his chair, and was halfway out of the tent.

“Light the torches,” he shouted, as he dashed out of the tent into the fading light of dusk.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Julius Caesar is Defeated 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

Julius Caesar tricks 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

Julius Caesar faces 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.