03. The Belgae Revolt
July 15, 2001
I have heard rumours that the Belgic tribes are planning an uprising. This is disturbing news - their territory is a third of Gaul. I will investigate further.
July 18, 2001
The information I received a few days past had been transmitted via fire signaling from the frontier in Gaul. As such, it was far from detailed. Better reports have since come in. It seems that the unrest had a few causes. Some felt that a Roman army wintering in Gaul was a bad sign. Others thought that if the rest of Gaul had already given in to Roman rule, their territory would be 'invaded' next. I also believe some agitators from Britannia might have been involved. Whatever the motivation, the news causes me some concern. I have started levying two new legions, and when they are ready they will enter Gaul under the command of my general Quintus Pedius. I will join them when my business in the Province is complete.
July 19, 2001
I'm considering proposing a law to grant Roman citizenship to all residents of Cisalpine Gaul. It's something I've wanted to do for some time, although now may be too early. I would like to have this ratified before I run for Consul again (in 4 years), as the new votes would be very welcome.
Alternately, I may seek to have my term as Governor extended. I am beginning to think that long-term operations may be necessary in Gaul, and I may need the extra time.
July 20, 2001
Quintus Pedius has set off with the new legions. I will join them shortly.
About Pompey's theatre: it will be large enough to hold 10,000 spectators. It will have a temple to Venus Victrix attached to it. (I imagine this is to get around those critics who consider theatres decadent, soft and overly Greek. If it has a temple as well, it can't be all bad in their eyes.) They are building it on the Campus Martius, which has very little construction on it. I think if I were to have something built, I would pick a site closer to the city.
Of course, I am still thinking about the upcoming campaign against the Belgae. But until I gather more information about their forces, little can be done.
July 23, 2001
Leaving for the front.
It occurs to me that the Senate uses compromise like a weapon. When important, contentious issues arise, and it seems like the popular assemblies may force the Senate to do something against its wishes, the Senate takes the matter into its own hands and takes the action itself. That way, they cement their postition as the "foundation" of the Repubic, and the proper place for political action to be taken. Even if the piece of legislation does not benefit them, and in fact even if it opposes them, the very form of the political process is controlled by the Senate, and this benefits them.
At least, it used to work this way. The gap may have gotten too wide lately.
July 25, 2001
I arrived at the Belgic frontier much faster than many of the tribes expected, and the Remi - the tribe nearest to Celtic Gaul - have told me they place themselves under Rome's protection. They say they had no part in the uprising. If I can determine that they are speaking the truth, I will use them to gather information about the tribes that did. I still do not know enough.
The Remi have given me hostages. They say that the rest of the Belgic tribes are up in arms, and they have help from some German tribes living on this side of the Rhine. Most of the Belgic tribes are themselves of German stock; they are the only tribes in Gaul that managed to hold their own against invasion by the Teutoni 50 years ago. So they pride themselves on their skill in combat.
The Remi also have detailed information on the size of the enemy armies, and it does not look good. The Bellovaci alone - the largest tribe, and the coordinators of the uprising - have 100,000 men. In total, there may be upwards of 200,000 men opposed to us.
July 27, 2001
I want to attack the Belgic tribes separately before they have a chance to concentrate their forces. So I have sent Diviciacus and the Aeduans into the land of the Bellovaci with instructions to devastate the countryside. I will move up to the border of the Remi's territory.
July 30, 2001
The Belgic armies have already joined. So Diviciacus' effort will be at best a diversionary one. Once I learned this, I advanced and crossed the river Aisne. This allowed me to encamp in a naturally protected position - the river protecting the rear and one side of the camp. I have had the camp fortified with 12' ramparts and an 18' trench.
A Remi town, Bibrax, lies eight miles away, and the Belgae are assaulting it violently. This is how the Gauls attack a fortress: they surround the entire length of the wall with a great mass of men, who shower the defenders with stones. Few can remain on the wall under such conditions. When the defenders have hidden, the Gauls advance with their shields over their heads, and set to digging under the wall.
This is what the Belgae undertook to do at Bibrax yesterday. The town's governor sent word last night that he couldn't hold any longer without help, so I sent a force made up of Cretan archers, Balearic slingers and some Numidians to assist in the defence. I have yet to hear the result.
July 31, 2001
The reinforcement of Bibrax was a success. The Remi gained new hope, and the Belgae gave up the assault. Although the numbers I sent were small, their exotic appearance may have startled the enemy, who now is devoting himself to the decimation of the surrounding countryside.
August 01, 2001
The Belgae have marched closer and have set up camp only two miles from my own. Last night we could see by the flames of their watchfires that their camp stretches for close to eight miles.
I've decided that a general action may not be the best idea. I am going to send out my cavalry today to provoke skirmishes. This way, I may be able to gauge just how fierce these hordes of Belgae are.
August 02, 2001
My men are easily as good as these Belgae. However, they still have numerical superiority, so I am trying to figure out a combination of terrain and tactics that will negate their advantage.
August 03, 2001
Today I took action. I decided the best place for an engagement was right in front of our camp. It's just wide enough to deploy the legions, and it drops off steeply on the flank; I had these slopes fortified with trenches and artillery. That way the enemy would be less likely to try to outflank us.
Once I had brought out my men in formation, the Belgae did likewise. There's a marsh in between our positions, so the enemy waited to see if we would try and cross it. We held our ground, and there were some cavalry skirmishes, but nothing else. The Belgae then disengaged and marched around to the Aisne, which is the river behind our camp; they hoped they could ford it and destroy the bridge, cutting us off from our lines of supply and communications. When I heard of this, I advanced against them with all my cavalry and some other light units. I caught them in the water. Many Belgae were killed in a short amount of time. Then, some of them tried to cross over the dead bodies, but were caught by my archers. The few who made it to the near side were rounded up and killed by my cavalry.
The Belgae have withdrawn. My scouts are trying to determine where they are headed. I hope to end this today.
August 07, 2001
The speed of action has exceeded the speed of reflection. More later.
August 08, 2001
After their defeat at the Aisne, seeing as their grain supply was slim, and since we Romans were trickier to fight than they had thought, and maybe having heard that the Aeduans were nearing the frontier of the Bellovaci, the Belgae decided that each tribe should return to their own country. I think they planned to reconvene once they saw where we would attack next.
In whatever case, the Belgae left around midnight friday, but with such terrible discipline that their retreat appeared to be a panicked exodus. Scouts informed me of this, but it sounded like an ambush, as at the time I didn't know their reasons. But by daybreak, reports confirmed the retreat was real, and I sent Quintus Pedius and Lucius Aurunculeius out with the cavalry and three legions to try and harass the enemy's rear. The Belgic rearguard held up and fought valiantly, but the remainder of the soldiers thought they were out of harm's way, and so broke ranks completely. Thus our troops were able, without any risk, to kill as many of them as there was time to kill.
On Sunday, then, I tried to surprise them by advancing quickly into the country of the Suessiones, and I tried to attack the fortress of Noviodunum. It was well fortified, so at first the attack was repelled. We then set about constructing siege works. The next night, the Suessiones' army returned to their country and saw the half-completed siege works. Having never seen anything remotely like it in Gaul, they were stunned by the size and speed of construction, and sent ambassadors who spoke of their wish to surrender.
I allowed it, took hostages and all their weapons, and have set off for the country of the Bellovaci.
August 09, 2001
The Bellovaci have retreated into their fortress at Bratuspantium. We should be there later today.
August 10, 2001
When we got about five miles from the Bellovaci fortress, their elders came out and begged for mercy. When we got right up to their walls and began to build a camp, the walls filled with their women and children who also pleaded to be spared. Diviciacus pulled me aside (he had disbanded his Aeduan forces after the Belgic retreat, and had rejoined my army). He said that the Aedui had always protected the Bellovaci, but their leading men had convinced them to break off the relationship and join the rebellion against Rome, by covincing the people that the Aedui were glorified Roman slaves who endured hardship after humiliation. He said that realizing their plan had failed, those leading men had since fled to Britain. Since this was the case, he asked me to spare the Bellovaci, in accordance with my well-known policy of clemency, as this would enhance the honour of the Aedui with the rest of the Belgic tribes.
Out of respect for Diviciacus, I accepted the submission of the Bellovaci. But I took 600 hostages because of their size and influence among the Belgae. We have collected all their weapons and now march against the Ambiani; it may take a couple days to get there. Shortly thereafter - the Nervii.
I have growing distaste for the island of Britain. It seems to harbour all the worst criminals and rebels in Gaul.
August 14, 2001
We arrived in the country of the Ambiani yesterday, and they surrendered immediately.
I have been learning about the Nervii, as I will confront them next. They are a secluded tribe; they do not allow traders into their land, as they fear imported luxuries will make their men soft. They apparently are outraged at their neighbours for submitting to Rome, and vow to never do so themselves. I am curious about how this will affect the large number of Belgae who are now marching with my army.
August 15, 2001
Prisoners have disclosed that we are now very close to where the Nervii lie in wait for us. The Nervii have been joined by their neighbours the Atrebates and Viromandui, and they are waiting for the arrival of another tribe, the Atuatuci. It's important I find a good camp site before an engagement is forced, so I have sent out a scouting party.
August 16, 2001
Many of the Belgae who were marching with us have abandoned our side and gone over to the Nervii. This upsets me; clearly the Nervii hold a strange sway over the Gauls. However, the setback must be taken in stride. My first concern: is there is any intelligence the defectors can impart to the enemy? If so, can I gain advantage by acting counter to their expectations?
The terrain here is difficult. The Nervii don't use cavalry, and have a technique for hindering their neighbours' cavalry attacks. They cut off the tops of the small trees that grow here, and bend them over so that branches shoot out to the side. They then plant thorn bushes around them. It creates a sort of hedge wall that is hard to penetrate, let alone see through.
I am becoming mindful of my soldiers' morale.
August 17, 2001
Scouts have found a good camp location, on a hill above the river Sambre.. We approach with caution; I believe the enemy may be close by.
Here we are -- enemy cavalry is visible. I was told they do not use cavalry...
August 20, 2001
On friday we were surprised by the Nervii. They made good use of their foliage and attacked us when we were trying to set up camp. I had sent up the cavalry and light troops to the river's edge while the main force set about building a camp. Suddenly the Nervii came out from behind their hedges on the other side of the river and attacked in full force. Our cavalry were routed, and the rest of the army had almost no time to prepare for the onslaught. Some of them fought without shields and helmets because of the rush. Also, all the hedges made it very difficult for me to see the entire battlefield, so it was hard to judge where to position the legions and reserves. And communication was almost impossible.
At first, we had some success - two separate units beat back their attackers and pursued them back into the river, where they destroyed many. However, when these groups advanced to the other shore, they opened up the 12th and 7th legions to attack by almost the entire Nervii force. The Nervii began to outflank these legions and many got around to our camp position. This is where the light infantry and cavalry had fled to, and when they saw the enemy upon them they fled again in all directions. The servants and baggage drivers saw the panic and abandoned the camp as well.
I went to the right wing, and the 12th legion was in trouble. They were so packed in that they couldn't fight effectively, most of the centurions and standard-bearers had been killed, and some men at the rear gave up the fight and ran off. I grabbed a shield and went to the front line. I addressed those in the front by name and told them to open up their ranks so they'd have more room to fight. They were encouraged by this, and managed to slow the enemy advance.
I then went to the 7th legion, who were nearby and also doing badly. I instructed the military tribunes to gradually move close to the 12th legion and get in a square formation. When this had happened the men were in a much better position and were no longer afraid of attack from the rear. Then, two legions that had been behind the baggage train finally arrived, and headed for our camp. Labienus, who was with one of the groups that had crossed the river, captured the enemy's camp, and could see from that position that our main force was in trouble. He sent the 10th legion back to help.
When everyone saw fresh legions approaching from two different directions, everything changed. Our men were invigorated, and the enemy began to panic. The Nervii fought with incredible bravery, though. When their first line fell, the second stood upon their fallen bodies and fought on. This contiuned until they were fighting on a mound of bodies. But it was over for them, and in the end, holding out so bravely meant that their army was absolutely destroyed
August 21, 2001
The Atuatuci, who were on their way to reinforce the Nervii, have turned back and are now holed up in a great fortress. We are on our way. If we can bring them to surrender, that will be the last insurgent Belgic tribe. I am awaiting news from Publius Crassus about his campaign against Gaul tribes on the Atlantic coast. If the news is good, all of Gaul will be pacified for the first time in recorded history.
August 23, 2001
The fortress is surrounded on three sides by sheer mountains. There's a gentle slope that's only about 200 feet wide; that's the only way to get at them. And to reinforce that area, they've built a high double wall. At first, they came out of their fort and did some skirmishing, but now they've gone back inside, where it appears they plan to stay. So, I have the opportunity to construct some siege-works.
August 24, 2001
We're building mantlets (covered corridors), a siege terrace, and a siege tower. As we do so the Atuatuci try to discourage us by shouting down insults. "You tiny little pygmies, you Romans, do you think you can manage to get that giant tower onto a wall, with your little weak hands and muscles?" That sort of thing. They love calling attention to their superior height.
August 27, 2001
we goT the seuig3 tower up and it scrd tehh ell out of th3 astautuci, THDIR 3NVOYZ ACMe BEFROE We E\/3N AHD TIEM OT USE 1T - TEHY THINKJ WE MST hAV3 HELp FROM ThE GoDS, ANDT EHY AWNT YTO SuRRENDAR ytehy asked tHat tehy Be sparEd, but they beggred to be 4ble to hold on to tehir weapond!!!!!!1~~~~~~ they vclaim teh1 renemeis silltear them apart if tehy ahve nonE. I WI7L HAX0R U B3CAUZ YOU SUX0R!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1~~~~~~ YOU ARE lAME EBCAUZI WILL AHCK YOUUYUUU I TOLD TEHM THAST YEZ, I WOULD SPR THEM, BUT MNO, TEHY COULDTN KEEP THEIR ARS, ALTHOUUgH I WOULD FORBID AnY OF TEH NIEGHBOURIN TRIBES tO AMKE WAR AGAINST THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!11~~ olololo!!!!!!11~~~~~ still waiting f0r teh tresponse/ if i don't hear anything, i hope to make usE of the abttaring ram we just buil;t.
Something seems to have gone wrong with the previous post. Whatever it was, here's what I intended to say:
We got the siege tower up and it scared the hell out of the Atuatuci. Their envoys came before we even had time to use it - they think we must have help from the gods, and they want to surrender. They asked that they be spared, but they begged to be able to hold on to their weapons. They claim their enemies will tear them apart if they have none. I told them that yes, I would spare them, but no, they couldn't keep their arms, although I would forbid any of the neighbouring tribes to make war against them.
Still waiting for the response. If I don't hear anything, I hope to make use of the battering ram we just built.
August 28, 2001
Today the Atuatuci came to their senses and dumped their weapons over the wall. The pile almost reaches the top of the siege tower. I fear my men are disappointed that there will be no opportunity for plunder, so I have ordered the gates to the fortress closed, and all Romans out of it until tomorrow.
August 29, 2001
The Atuatuci have been scheming. At midnight last night, apparently expecting our guard to be down after their surrender, they made an escape attempt. They had kept some weapons with them, and they tried to scale the wall where it appeared least fortified. Our guards saw it happen, and quickly fire-signaled - troops arrived from our nearest redoubts and prevented the escape. The Atuatuci fought desparately and pointlessly. About four thousand of them were killed, the rest were forced back into the fortress.
This morning I turned the fort over to my men. I kept the inhabitants for myself, and sold them as a single unit; the highest bidder noted it as a sale of 53,000 people.
August 31, 2001
Received word from Publius Crassus that the Gaul tribes on the Western Atlantic have been subjected to Roman rule. Also, ambassadors came from tribes on the other side of the Rhine who wish to submit. I have told them to wait until next summer. All of Gaul is pacified, and I think this season's campaign is done. I will quarter the legions in Gaul and set out for Italy shortly.
September 06, 2001
I have been unable to post on account of the celebration. News came from Rome: I have been granted a supplicatio, a feast of prayer and thanksgiving, on account of the pacification of Gaul.
I wish I could be there. All the temples open, parties in the streets, women with their hair down, families offering prayers to the gods. Wreaths and laurels everywhere. Although, it is just that I celebrate here with my men, who deserve the honour as much as I. After many hardships it is time I let them unwind. And I will be back in Rome before long.
The supplicatio will last for fifteen days, the longest yet! The next longest was Pompey's, of ten days, after he conquered Syria and Judea. What an honour the Senate has granted me. Could I ever hope for more?