06. The German Invasion
December 12, 2001
Germans have invaded Gaul.
Needless to say, I am greatly concerned. I will return to Gaul earlier than planned and have sent word that the legions should be ready to march upon my arrival.
December 14, 2001
The German tribes of the Usipetes and Tenctheri were forced from their lands by the movements of the Suebi, the largest and most dangerous German tribe. The Usipetes and Tenctheri crossed the Rhine into the territory of the Menapii, who apparently have been slaughtered.
I'm on my way, and I'm still reading the reports.
December 18, 2001
Sorry, I was unable to post during the journey. But I had the chance to learn all that is known about the situation at hand.
The Suebi - they are the largest and most aggressive German tribe. They can apparently muster 100,000 men for battle. This is not even all of their men of military age: a portion of them stay home every year and take care of the affairs of those at war; these roles are reversed each year. They love freedom and place few restraints on personal liberties. Land is not owned by private individuals, but rather shared by all members of the canton. They are a tough race. They pride themselves on wearing next to nothing, even during their terrible winters. They are suspicious of outside trade. Most Gauls love horses and attempt to import the finest horses possible; these Germans, however, refuse to do so, and instead ride their own puny little horses. And they consider it effeminate to use a saddle. They think wine makes men soft (like many Germans), so they forbid it. They eat little grain, preferring milk and meat. They look down on those tribes neighbouring them who have adopted Gallic customs, and attempt to invade whenever possible.
The Usipetes and Tenctheri withstood these attacks for many years, but have now succumbed. It is said they wandered for three years before arriving in the country of the Menapii, and defeated them in battle.
I am considering my next move. I need to find out how this development has affected other Gallic tribes before I can arrive at the best course of action.
December 19, 2001
While I think of it, here is a curious tidbit about Pompey that Julia related to me.
Cato approached Pompey and asked him to think about how he was tying himself to Caesar. He said that should I really exert my pressure, we would both fall upon the city - as Pompey wouldn't be able either to throw me off or to bear my weight.
Flattering, isn't it?
As I expected, the German incursion has thrown all of Gaul into a state of panicked excitement. More about this later.
December 21, 2001
The Gauls have a habit of stopping any travelers who pass through their town and ask them what they have heard about a given happening. They are quite forceful about this, and many who are prodded in this manner simply make up whatever answer they think will please their inquisitors. Or, all they can offer is hearsay and rumour. Nevertheless the Gauls take it as fact, and rush to act on it.
So I was not surprised to learn that some Gaul tribes have sent ambassadors to the invading Germans, inviting them further afield. And the Germans have indeed done so.
I have summoned leaders of the major Gaul tribes in the area. I need to assuage their fears.
December 22, 2001
I spoke with the Gaul leaders today. I reassured them, and asked them to supply cavalry for the upcoming campaign.
The next issue is arranging a corn supply. Shortly we will be on our way.
December 26, 2001
All arrangements have been made. We have been on the march. At present we are a few days away from the German army, and they have just now sent envoys to discuss something or other. I will meet with them shortly.
December 27, 2001
The German envoys were relatively restrained. They declared that they weren't committing acts of aggression against the Roman people. However, they said, they would fight vigorously if attacked. They mentioned that they had come into Gaul not because they wanted to, but because they were forced out by the Suebi, the only people they themselves could not master in battle. So if I was willing to grant them land, they would move there, otherwise they would stay on the land they had won by the sword.
I responded that there could be no friendship between us as long as they remained in Gaul. I added it was not right for them to move into someone else's land, given they had failed to defend their own. There was no room in Gaul for them; however I might be able to persuade a neighbouring German tribe to admit them.
They said they would return to confer with their people, and would come to me again in three days with a response. They asked that I not move any closer in the meantime. I refused this request. This is because intelligence reports show that a large contingent of their cavalry are away scouting for supplies, and I suspect the Germans want to prolong negotiations until that group returns.
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December 30, 2001
I advanced further, to about 12 miles from the German camp. Again, they send their ambassadors. They now claim that they want to take up my offer of resettling in the land of the Ubii. Of course, it will take another three days for this to get resolved, and they asked that I not advance again, and especially that I send word to my cavalry to turn back. My cavalry has moved far ahead of the infantry columns.
I said I will restrict my advance to four miles - as that's how far I had planned to continue anyway. And I offered to give their requests a formal hearing tomorrow.
December 31, 2001
I sent word to my cavalry not to attack even if provoked. Shortly thereafter, however, the German cavalry did just that, and charged my men. Even though they had only 800 horse, and my men number 5,000, since my men had just heard of the envoy's leaving they were absolutely taken by surprise. The Germans dismounted, ran up and stabbed my men's horses in the belly. This is how they go about unhorsing cavalry. My men, panicked, turned and fled, and did not stop until they had come upon the front ranks of our infantry.
Needless to say, I am discarding any hopes of negotiation. We must attack before the bulk of the German cavalry returns. We proceed by forced march.
January 02, 2002
Anno novo prospero.
One of the men killed in the cavalry attack was Piso, a brave Aquitanian whose grandfather had been king of his tribe and who had been titled a Friend of Rome by the Senate. Piso went to the aid of his brother, but his own horse was attacked and threw him. He tried to hold off as long as he could, but eventually his wounds were too great and he succumbed. When his brother discovered this, he rode straight up to the enemy and let himself be killed.
January 04, 2002
I had a stroke of luck. A contingent of German leaders came to our camp, ostensibly to apologize for attacking us against their word. I suspected they were playing at another stalling tactic and had them detained. This will help greatly in the upcoming battle against their army.
January 05, 2002
Unfortunately I will be unable to post for a week's time. The way things are going, by then I will have some serious war stories to tell.
January 14, 2002
At last I can blog again. I will bring you up to speed.
With the German leaders in captivity, I marched my army out of camp, taking care to put the recently demoralized cavalry in the rear. After a quick eight mile march we were on top of the German camp. Because of my sudden arrival and the absence of their leaders, the Germans were in disarray. They couldn't decide whether to take up arms, or to flee for their lives. Furthermore, these tribes had taken their entire families with them when they invaded Gaul, and now their women and children were milling about the camp in a panic. I sent the cavalry out against the civilians. Some of the soldiers attempted a resistance, but when they saw how their families were being massacred they threw aside their weapons and rushed out of camp. They ran and ran until they came to the Rhine. At this point a large number had already been killed, and the remainder, in their exhausted and confused state, drowned in an attempt to cross the river.
Not a single Roman soldier was killed in this victory, even though we had expected heavy casualties against an enemy four hundred thousand strong. I offered our prisoners their freedom; however they were too afraid of what the Gauls would do to them to leave their camp. So I allowed them to remain with us.
January 15, 2002
Intelligence reports that the large body of cavalry I was concerned about has crossed back into Germany and joined up with the forces of the Sugambri. I sent an embassy to that tribe, and asked that those who had made war upon Rome be surrendered to me. They responded that the Rhine was the limit of Rome's sovereignty, and if I maintained that Germans should not cross into Gaul, why should Romans cross into their country?
January 16, 2002
I have decided it will be necessary to cross the Rhine into Germany. No Roman army has done this before.
This is why it should happen. I need to make the Germans less likely to cross into Gaul in the future, by demonstrating that their own territory is far from secure and that Romans have the will and the ability to enter it. Another reason is the impunity of the Sugambri, which I spoke of yesterday. Also, the Ubii - the only tribe in Germany that has allied with Rome - are having problems with the aggressive Suebi. In the Ubii's opinion, though, all I need do is cross over into Germany and their problems will be solved, as the skill of the Roman army is the stuff of legend in their country. They have even offered their boats to get us across.
So I have decided to go ahead. But I don't think boat transport is a good idea: it's too risky, and in a way it's beneath the dignity of a Roman leader.
I have decided to build a bridge.
January 18, 2002
This bridge will be a massive undertaking: the Rhine is a wide, deep, and fast-moving river. My engineers and I have devised a way to build the bridge in such a way that the stronger the current, the more secure the bridge will be.
My men have begun collecting wood. With the amount of men I have now, this bridge should be built very quickly.
January 19, 2002
The bridge is halfway done.
I have been making some preparations for an altogether different campaign, in yet another area where Romans have never gone.
January 22, 2002
The bridge was completed yesterday. We crossed over into Germany, into the country of the Sugambri. They are nowhere to be found. Scouts have uncovered some abandoned villages, but little else.
Some positive developments: many tribes have sent requests for peace and friendship with Rome. Once they supply hostages, I will happily grant their requests.
January 23, 2002
Some of the friendly ambassadors have supplied information about the Sugambri. Apparently when they learned of the bridge construction, the renegade cavalry advised them to flee. So they did, with all of their possessions, and hid in forests and out-of-reach places.
There is little we can do here. I am having my men raze the countryside and torch the villages, and when this is done we will go to the aid of the Ubii.
January 26, 2002
We entered the Ubii's territory and they greeted us warmly. The Suebi, they told us, had fled. They too had heard of the bridge being built and had convened a council, their custom in times of emergency. It was decided that every man should run off into the forests with their families and possessions. They were to convene later at a remote place, and wait there to engage our forces.
I am not interested in fighting the Suebi in a location best suited to them, deep in a foreign country. Already I have achieved all of my goals for this expedition: the Ubii have been relieved of the Suebi's constant harassment; the Sugambri have been taught a lesson; and we have struck fear into the heart of every German with a decisive demonstration of Roman abilities. I see no reason to stay here.
January 27, 2002
We crossed back into Gaul and destroyed the bridge behind us.
It's near the end of the summer, but I have further plans before this year's campaign is over. We are going to Britain.
We march today for the country of the Morini, where we will wait for the fleet.