01. Campaign against the Helvetii
May 13, 2001
I'm heading up to Geneva. One of the Gaul tribes is planning on cutting through Roman territory, in an attempt to go and fight some other tribe. I'm the governor of Gaul now, so I have to stop them... I'm caught a little off guard - there's only one legion up there, so I'm trying to raise some more at the same time.
Well, it looks like I might be away more than I'd like, so I decided to set up this blog. My friends in Rome can keep track of what I'm up to amongst the barbarians..
May 14, 2001
Just got in. Desperately trying to raise some more legions. The Gauls that are threatening to cross are called the Helvetii. They live up in the Alps, and there are only two ways out - they've chosen the easier one, through Roman territory. There's a bridge here that they would take, so I had it destroyed. I'm having some fortifications built. And tomorrow I meet with the Helvetii ambassadors.
May 16, 2001
Met with the Helvetii ambassadors. They claim there is no other route open to them, and that they won't touch anything - they'll just pass right on through. The thing is, 50 years ago these same Helvetii slaughtered a Roman army. I don't see how I can let them pass.
I told them I would think about it, and for them to come back in a little while and ask me again. Hopefully this will buy enough time for the other legions to get here.
The dates on these posts are all wrong! I'll try and see if I can do anything about that...
May 17, 2001
Met with the Helvetii ambassadors again. I told them it would be against Roman tradition for me to let them march through the province, and I would stop them if they tried to force their way through. They were disappointed.
Last night they made several attempts to cross the Rhone. They tried to wade across, and they also attached boats into makeshift rafts. They are very disorganized, and my men easily discouraged them by showering them with missiles from the fortifications we built earlier.
I can only assume the Helvetii will try to leave their country by the other route, which passes through the land of the Sequani. We're going to leave here today and prepare.
The Helvetii must be getting desparate. Apparently they were so convinced they would conquer new land in Gaul that they destroyed all of their villages before they left. That way, they don't have the option of turning back and going home.
May 19, 2001
The Helvetii struck a deal with the Sequani, and passed through their country into that of the Aedui. I think they're heading for the country of the Santoni. This could be bad: The Santoni border on Roman territory, and there isn't much in the way of natural defenses between them and some rich Roman cornland.
The Aedui have sent people to me to ask for help. Their country is being ravaged by the Helvetii. Two other neighbouring tribes report the same thing.
I left Titus Labienus in charge of the legion at Geneva, and went back into northern Italy to meet up with my other legions. I am on my way now, with five legions. We are crossing the Alps on our way back into Gaul. Some of the local tribes are trying to slow us down; they attack us with spears and arrows from great heights. They aren't much of a problem, but I can't help wondering if the Helvetii are actually organized enough to have enlisted them as allies...
May 21, 2001
Made it back into Gaul. We found the Helvetii as they were trying to cross the Saone, a very slow-moving local river. Scouts reported that three-quarters of their army had made it across on rafts to the far bank, but the last quarter had yet to leave. We attacked quickly and caught them by surprise. Most were killed, and the rest ran off into the woods.
It was a tidy bit of justice. The Helvetii are divided into four clans, and this group of their army was made up of the Tigurini clan. This clan was the one that destroyed a Roman army 50 years ago. My great-grandfather was killed in that battle.
My men are building a bridge across the river. I want to attack the remaining Helvetii as quickly as possible.
May 22, 2001
We got across, but the Helvetii sent an ambassador to meet us before I could attack them. The old man's name is Divico. This is more or less what he said:
If we make peace with them, they would settle wherever Rome wanted them to. But if we prefer to wage war, we should first think back to the defeat of Cassius and his army 50 years ago. The Helvetii are known for their bravery. We may have had a victory by sneak attack this time, but the Helvetii don't rely on tricks and deception. Instead, they fight bravely, simply, and to the death.
I told him that their defeat of Cassius was itself a sneak attack. And he should know - Divico was their commander back then. I have not forgotten that, I said, and neither have I forgotten their recent attempt to force their way through Roman territory, nor that they had attacked several tribes who have allied themselves with Rome. I said I intended to punish them for that same battle he was bragging about. But, if they returned to their country, paid for the damages they had caused so far, and gave hostages as a guarantee, I would make peace with them.
Divicus responded, "it is the custom of the Helvetii to take hostages, but never to give them - as you Romans have good cause to know." Then, he left.
May 23, 2001
The Helvetii left their encampment. So did we. I have about 4,000 cavalry with me, some from the Province, some from the Aedui and their allies. I sent all of them ahead to keep an eye on the Helvetii army. Unfortunately, they got a little carried away and attacked from a bad position. They suffered some casualties, I'm afraid.
Another concern is the grain supply. The Aedui have promised some, but it has yet to appear. I have some travelling along the Saone, but I can't get to it since I want to keep following the Helvetii, and they're moving away from the river.
May 24, 2001
More of the same. The Helvetii keep lining up their rearguard in an attempt to force my men to engage, but I've told them not to. The Helvetii are overconfident now after their little victory. I want to hold off attacking until I can take advantage of terrain.
I have sent for the Aeduan ambassadors, as they keep making excuses and putting me off whenever I ask for the grain they promised me. I'm not sure what's going on with them. We meet tomorrow.
May 25, 2001
Had an assembly today with the Aeduan chiefs, Diviciacus and Liscus. I yelled at them for failing to make good on their promise of grain, and said I could consider it a betrayal. I think I scared them a little. Liscus broke down, and explained that certain powerful men in their tribe wanted to support the Helvetii and not the Romans. These men said they preferred to be ruled by their fellow Gauls instead of by myself, since they thought I was only here to enslave the lot of them. As Liscus spoke, I gradually realized he was referring to Diviciacus's brother, Dumnorix. So, I dismissed the assembly, but got Liscus to stay behind.
Liscus spoke freely once Diviciacus was gone. He had indeed been referring to Dumnorix, who had made himself powerful and wealthy over the last few years. He was charging tolls on some of the Aeduan roads and rivers, and had made private alliances with neighbouring tribes. In fact, it was Dumnorix who got the Sequani to let the Helvetii through their territory. He's fond of bribery and coercion, and keeps a sizeable private army.
This Dumnorix is obviously a big problem for me, as he's forcing his countrymen to ally with the Helvetii. I have summoned his brother. Diviciacus is a reasonable man, and a friend of Rome, so hopefully he will help. More later.
I met with Diviciacus and told him what I had learned about his brother. He begged me not to have Dumnorix executed. I told him I wouldn't, that I would forgive all that had happened so far, since Diviciacus had been such a good ally and friend. Dumnorix was nearby in the camp, so I sent for him as well. I told him of the allegations his own government had made against him, and warned him that any further missteps on his part would have serious consequences.
Sometimes friendships are a real source of weakness. I'm not confident that Dumnorix will behave himself. He's the sort of person who can't rest until he wears a crown upon his head. I've instructed some of my spies to keep a close eye on him.
Intelligence about the Helvetii has arrived... We may attack tomorrow. Possibly tonight.
May 26, 2001
I learned late last night that the Helvetii had set up camp right next to a large hill. My scouts also reported that the ascent on the far side of the hill was quite easy. So, I sent my second-in-command Labienus with two legions to take the hill. His orders were to attack when he saw my main force close in on the Helvetii camp.
I set off with the rest of the army. I sent a patrol headed by Publius Considius, because I've heard he's an excellent soldier. He returned to say the hill had already been taken by the Helvetii. He said he came close enough to recognize their Gallic armor.
I've withdrawn to a nearby hill, and have sent out more patrols to see if the Helvetii move. I'm not sure what happened to Labienus.
It seems that Publius Considius is an idiot. Somehow he mistook Labienus and his men for the Helvetii: it was Labienus who took the hill, and the Helvetii have moved camp. We missed our chance.
Since rations are to be distributed in two days, and we don't have any supplies, I'm going to leave the Helvetii for now and march to Bibracte. It's the largest town of the Aedui, and it's not too far away from here.
May 27, 2001
Some slaves escaped and told the Helvetii of our movements. Now they are following us, trying to force a fight. I'm going to hold out until I can use some terrain to my advantage.
May 29, 2001
It's been a long day of fighting.
The Helvetii got very close. We found a hill close by; I sent the cavalry out to engage the Helvetii as I lined up the legions on the hill. The four veteran legions out front, the two newer ones and the reserves up high. I had the veterans build some quick defenses. Also, I had all the horses sent out of sight, so no one would even think about fleeing.
The Helvetii charged in phalanx formation. My men threw their spears from their position of height and easily broke the enemy's line. Then we charged. The Helvetii tend to pack closely together in battle, so a thrown spear often pins two or more of their shields together. As you may know, we design our spears to break off in the enemy's armor, so that they can't be thrown back. Anyway, because they were all pinned up like this, the Gauls had a hard time defending themselves.
The Helvetii were retreating to another hill, and my veterans pursuing them, when 15,000 Helvetian reserve troops came up quickly and surrounded us. We were forced to fight on two fronts. Eventually the first force gave up and continued their retreat. Then their reserve force backed up and used their own baggage train as a fortification. The fighting continued until very recently - it was a hard battle, but finally my men overcame the Gauls. We weren't able to take many prisoners, however.
A lot of the Helvetii got away: apparently 130,000 have escaped to the north. Considering that there were many more than that yesterday morning, and considering my men number under 40,000, we did very well yesterday against a much larger force. I have decided not to pursue the Helvetii, but rather tend to the wounded instead.
Their ambassadors have already contacted me. They want to surrender. Why are they running away, then? I think they are low on supplies, and want to see if they can get some before I catch up with them. Of course, they know that if I catch up with them first, it's over - hence the ambassadors. I have told them I will accept their surrender, if they stay where they are.
May 30, 2001
The Helvetii did as I said and stayed where they were until we got there. I ordered them to give hostages and hand over their weapons. As my men were collecting the weapons, one of the Helvetii clans - the Verbigeni, 6,000 men strong - tried to escape. They set off for the German frontier. I sent messengers to the neighbouring tribes, telling them to stop the Helvetii cowards and return them to me, or I would hold them responsible.
It's pouring rain tonight.
I look at the prisoners here with both pity and scorn. They're soaked to the bone, they've destroyed their own homes, and they fear a massacre.
Men would do well to choose their leaders carefully.
June 01, 2001
The Verbigeni were brought back and I had them killed. I told the rest of the Helvetii that they were to return to their country, and rebuild their villages. I ordered the neighbouring Allobroges to supply them with grain until they could grow their own. It's important that they go back to their country, as I fear that if it's left uninhabited, some Germans will hear about it and make plans to move in.
So, for once, stability in Gaul.
I do get some mail from my readers, and I thought I should clear something up. I am not 'Emperor' of Rome. There is no such person, Rome is a Republic! Rome hasn't had an autocrat since the time of Sulla. (Well, my friend Pompey was given dictatorial powers when Rome was having trouble with pirates, but that didn't last long.)
Although sometimes I wonder whether the system is really working that well. The Senate and the Assembly can never agree on anything. And so many people are for sale.
But really, some of you should try and keep up with current events a little better.
June 03, 2001
All of the Gaul leaders have sent messengers congratulating me for my victory. It seems they were concerned about the Helvetian plans to conquer all of Gaul. They apparently have other important matters to discuss, as they want me to attend a pan-Gallic assembly that's happening shortly.