08. The Second Rebellion
June 20, 2002
The man I had appointed king of the Carnutes has been assassinated, apparently with the approval of many members of the tribe. I am transferring Plancus from Belgium to the country of the Carnutes to investigate.
Reports back from all my generals indicate the legions have arrived at their camps and are fortifying them. I'll be leaving Gaul soon.
June 21, 2002
One of our camps has been attacked. It was that of Sabienus and Cotta, in the territory of the Eubrones. I don't know much at this point, but I can tell you this: the attack has been repulsed by our men, the camp is secure, and we won't need to send reinforcements. I will however need to remain in Gaul, and figure out, if it is true that the Eubrones have rebelled, why a small tribe like theirs would attempt such a thing.
June 24, 2002
It's nothing short of an all-out organized uprising throughout Gaul. All the tribes are acting in concert. The situation is critical.
June 25, 2002
I've lost contact with Sabinus and Cotta. I think the routes of communication have been obstructed. Similarly, I haven't heard back from Cicero, who's stationed with the Nervii.
Meanwhile, the situation in Rome gets worse. As you know, Julia was married to Pompey, and her death makes Pompey's relationship with me even more strained. This movement to make him dictator, to clean up the political standstill in Rome, continues to grow, and quite clearly it endangers my position. I don't think Pompey is ready to side with the Senate against me, but nonetheless this rebellion in Gaul couldn't come at a worse time.
June 26, 2002
I've received a dispatch from Sabinus and Cotta. However, it's from some time ago, and they've presumably already taken action, but of course I don't know yet what action they took.
After the Eubronian attack was repulsed, the leader Ambiorix met with representatives of the Roman generals. Ambiorix acknowledged that he owed Rome a great deal, had always been a steadfast ally, and had attacked against his wishes. His people had compelled him to do so, he said. He said he was not foolhardy enough to send only his army out against the Romans, but since all the tribes had agreed to act together, he played his part. He wanted, however, to pay his debt to Rome by warning the generals that a massive army of German mercenaries was presently heading to their location, and that they had better try and join up with the nearest Roman camp before the local tribes learned of their movement, or all would surely be lost. He offered safe passage through his territory, once again out of his debt to Rome.
When Sabinus and Cotta heard this they were greatly alarmed. They formed a war council and a long debate raged. Cotta thought it unwise to take any action without my approval; also he mistrusted the source - an enemy who had just attacked! Sabinus, on the other hand, saw no downside in moving camp. If the threats were exaggerated or non-existent, no harm would befall them, while if the threat was real it was their only way to escape.
This letter was written before they settled on a course of action. I only hope they chose wisely.
July 01, 2002
I have just heard what happened. I will try to explain it clearly.
Sabinus' side won the debate, and so the army marched out at daybreak. About two miles down the trail, Gaul ambushes sprung up at the head and tail of the column. The Gauls had cleverly pinned our men into an extremely awkward fighting position. Sabinus ran about in a panic; Cotta, however, had foreseen the possibility of an ambush and so he took control. He ordered the soldiers to abandon the baggage train and form a circle. Unfortunately, this order had bad repercussions. Many of the men left their units to fish their most prized belongings from the baggage, causing confusion. Also, it signaled to the enemy a certain amount of fear, which in turn increased the enemy's spirits.
There were many more Gauls than there were legionaires. Our men fought valiantly, but in the end it was no use. Cotta himself was wounded by a slingshot. Sabinus appealed to Ambiorix to spare himself and his men - the Gaul leader sent word he would try to do so if the Romans laid down their arms. Sabinus was eager to take up the offer and confer with Ambiorix, but he could not convince Cotta (Roman troops are not supposed to go to an enemy who has not himself given up arms). So Sabinus took a few men with him and approached Ambiorix. Ambiorix got them to drop their weapons, and then purposefully stalled the discussions while his men gradually surrounded the Roman party. Finally they killed Sabinus, and then shouted their traditional victory cheer. Their army charged all at once and broke our ranks, killing Cotta where he stood fighting. All our men were killed, save for a handful who took their own lives, and a few who managed to sneak off and eventually make their way to Labienus' camp. From there they got a message back to me.
In the meantime I have also heard from Cicero. His camp is beseiged by a great force of Gauls, including this same Ambiorix. I will have more details in the next couple days, but for now I must hurry to make emergency arrangements.
July 02, 2002
Ambiorix must have moved to the territory of the Nervii after destroying Sabinus' and Cotta's army. He seems to have combined forces with the Nervii and convinced them to attack Cicero's camp. Cicero, of course, was surprised by the attack. The Gauls put all their faith in a strong initial attack, but our troops managed to resist this. They devoted themselves to reinforcing the fortifications - by day they defended against the Gaul assault; by night they repaired the ramparts and built large towers. No one got any sleep, not even Cicero, until his own men interceded and forced him to take care of himself.
After a few days of this, the Gauls asked for a meeting. They claimed they had no quarrel with him, but they took issue with the stationing of Roman camps in Gaul during the winter. They promised him safety if he left camp. He responded by saying that if they laid down their arms, and asked Caesar for terms, he might consider this. Thus they left disappointed, and continued the seige with surprising skill, using siegework techniques they had clearly learned from fighting against us.
So it goes on, or at least so I hope. That word even got through to me is a bit of a marvel: the roads and countryside were carefully guarded. A Nervian had defected to Cicero at the beginning of the siege, however. This man promised freedom and a lot of money to a slave of his. The slave tied the letter round a javelin to better conceal it, managed to pass through the siege without suspicion, and brought the message to me - after many others had failed.
So I've asked Marcus Crassus to march to Cicero's camp, as I will do myself. Fabius will go to the country of the Atrebates and secure it, as we will need to pass through there. And Labienus will attempt to advance to the Nervian border. The other legions are to far off to be any help, but I've asked for some of their cavalry.
These rebels will pay for their impunity.
July 05, 2002
We've entered the territory of the Atrebates - Fabius succeeded, and we have joined forced with Marcus Crassus and his army. Unfortunately, Labienus reports that it's too dangerous for him to leave camp at the moment. Rebellion is everywhere. But we move on.
July 08, 2002
We're proceeding via forced march to the Nervii's territory. Since Labienus is fenced in by the Treveri I have only two legions instead of three. However, I have learned from some prisoners we took that Cicero continues to hold out, so at least there is some reason to hope.
July 09, 2002
I wrote a message to Cicero, telling him to hold on since we were on our way. I wrote it in Greek in case of interception. I fixed it to a javelin and gave it to a Gallic horseman, whom I bribed heavily, and told him to throw it over into the camp should it be impossible to hand it off in person.
Meanwhile, we've come upon a number of small Gaul settlements and wrecked them. I have a feeling we're close.
July 11, 2002
After some delay, Cicero received the message. (The horseman threw the javelin over the walls and it was a couple days before someone noticed there was a note attached.) I've just now heard back from him, and he says the Gauls have left his camp and are looking to engage my army. Evidently they saw smoke from the burning towns and knew I had come. So we advance cautiously - although I'm looking to strike as quickly as possible and settle this.
July 15, 2002
When I marched the army out at dawn yesterday, we found the Gaul forces on the other side of a wide valley and stream. They outnumber us greatly, and the terrain was unfavourable. Seeing as the seige of Cicero's camp was now lifted, there's no rush for us to join battle - so I found the most favourable site I could and we began construction of a camp. Meanwhile I've sent out scouts to find the best place to cross the stream.
July 17, 2002
The plan now is to bait the Gauls into attacking us, since our terrain is so favourable. To this end, I'm having the men positioned so that it looks like there are far fewer of us than in reality. Also, I'm encouraging the men to mill about in a panicked fashion, to give the impression we are terrified and unprepared. We'll see if it works.
July 21, 2002
My apologies for the lack of updates but as you know, I'm a busy man. Anyway, our ploy worked. I had our cavalry in a forward position, and the Gaul cavalry charged them. At this cue my men turned back and retreated, and at the same time a particularily inspired enactment of turmoil in our camp convinced the Gauls - who had been waiting for reinforcements - to finally cross the stream and approach our position. They sent heralds out to announce that any who did not wish to fight were to leave the camp now and be spared. Their contempt was inspiring to my men, and when the enemy began a feeble attempt to dig through the palisade my infantry suddenly charged from all the gates, followed closely by the cavalry. I don't think the Gauls landed a single blow - they were so shocked they all fled, many dropped their weapons, and most wound up dead on the ground. So we go now to meet with Cicero at his camp.
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July 24, 2002
You know, we didn't have a single casualty in that last battle.
We made it to Cicero's camp. Now I realize how serious the situation had been: 90% of the men are wounded. They could not have held out much longer. I've congratulated them all for their valour, and sent dispatches to the other generals to clarify the events of recent weeks.
July 25, 2002
As I've made clear before, the Gauls are an impulsive people. Undoubtedly Ambiorix's victory inspired other ambitious tribal leaders to follow suit. I can only hope that word of my latest victory will spread quickly and make them reconsider.
A winter in Italy being out of the question, I'll camp near Samarobriva with three legions (this is where we keep all the heavy equipment, the hostages and the archives as well). Fabius will take his legion back to camp. I'm going to need a more effective intelligence network; I've put my top informers in charge of recruiting new men across the continent and have asked them to deploy them as soon as possible.
July 29, 2002
I summoned all the Gaul tribal leaders to meet with me, and through means ranging from persuasion to intimidation, have secured obedience throughout Gaul, for at least the time being. The Senones - a large and influential tribe - did not send anyone as requested. I'm trying to find out more.
July 31, 2002
Usurpers amongst the Senones tried to kill their king Cavarinus (an appointee of mine). He heard of the scheme and fled, but was discovered at the border. They dethroned and banished him, although they spared his life. I've asked for their entire tribal council to pay me a visit and discuss their recent actions.
Predictably, the Senones have refused my "invitation." It stuns me that a tribe would act with such boldness - it signals a great shift in the Gallic mind, one that I can't help but be concerned about. Suddenly, I see all the tribes as potential rebels. Only the Aedui and the Remi can be considered steadfast allies at this point.
My informants have found evidence of a dialogue between Indutiomaris, leader of the Treveri, and several German tribes. Ambassadors have been traveling back and forth, but I don't yet know what was being arranged.
August 03, 2002
Indutiomaris has been trying to convince the Germans to join with him and attack us. The German tribes still have bad memories of their last run-in with Roman troops, so none have agreed to help him. Yet. But nonetheless Indutiomaris has proceeded to raise and train an army, and in fact is offering money to exiles and convicts across Gaul to come and join him.
The next step is a muster in arms. This is a tradition in Gaul. By law (for all the tribes), when someone issues a muster in arms, all men must arm themselves and convene. The last to arrive is tortured horribly in front of the rest.
War with this degenerate is inevitable. The only issue is when, and where.
August 05, 2002
It looks like the muster in arms has been issued, and the first move for Indutiomaris will be to attack the Remi. To do this, he will need to pass Labienus' camp. Undoubtedly he will attack it.
August 06, 2002
Once again about the RSS feed: if anyone's using it, leave a note with your URL below. I'd like to keep track.
August 11, 2002
I'm in close contact with Labienus, and he's not concerned about Indutiomaris. The Gaul's cavalry have already been spotted. I've advised Labienus to feign fear and weakness, and in doing so encourage the Gauls to act rashly.
August 12, 2002
Here's what happened with Labienus: he carefully concealed the size of his forces by keeping them within the fort. The Treveri agressors arrived and acted with typical contempt, lobbing javelins over the ramparts half-heartedly and yelling foolish provocations. Because they were so lacklustre at maintaining a watch, Labienus was able to move all the cavalry he had asked for from neighbouring tribes into the camp without Indutiomaris noticing. So when the time was right, Labienus ordered the cavalry to rush through the gates at the Treveri forces, scaring them off. Now, here's the beautiful part. Beforehand, he had instructed them that once the enemy was fleeing, not a single one should be killed until Indutiomaris himself was located and cut down. He also offered a massive cash reward. It worked, and Indutiomaris was found trying to cross a river. Shortly thereafter his head was in Labienus' keeping.
August 14, 2002
The Treveri forces have scattered - all of the tribes who were helping them have returned to their homes, terrified. Here's hoping the defeat discourages any further revolt in Gaul.
August 18, 2002
Even after this last victory, I suspect there will be more uprisings soon, so I'm having three of my generals raise more troops. I've also asked Pompey to assemble the Northern Italian recruits I was promised some time back.
August 20, 2002
Amazingly, the Treveri haven't given up. Indutiomaris' family has taken over command of the tribe and are still trying to recruit the Germans. The Germans now demand a lot of money before they'll cross the Rhine, and even that might not do it. Nonetheless the Treveri continue - they've formed allegiances with other, more distant tribes, who have promised to shoulder some of the fee. As it stands now, my informers report that the Treveri, Nervii, Atuatuci, Menapii and all the tribes along the Rhine are allied against me, and I have my suspicions about the Senones and the Carnutes.
All I can say: there's going to be a bloodbath. Sooner rather than later.
August 21, 2002
The recruits are on their way. I now have three new legions - double the number that were lost. It's not that I think the extra troops are necessary for victory, it's that the speed at which such a superior force has been mobilized may demoralize the Gauls. Why keep fighting, if a victory only means the enemy increases his strength?
I've assembled the four nearest legions and we're entering Nervii territory as I write. There's no time to wait until the spring, we must attack now.
Also, I hear that Crassus' campaign in Parthia is not faring well. I don't know any details, but I'm very concerned.
August 22, 2002
We've struck the Nervii, hard. They were caught completely off guard, and didn't manage to either flee or concentrate forces. We've slaughtered a great number, and any cattle or prisoners that we come by I am turning over to my men to do with as they see fit.
Also, we're ravaging their countryside. The Nervii won't be growing food this year, but they'll be doing plenty of rebuilding.
August 24, 2002
The Nervii have surrendered and handed over hostages. I'm going to monitor the response of other tribes through my informants, but what I'll likely do is move the troops into winter quarters and wait until spring to continue the campaign, since I think this latest victory of ours will forestall more enemy offensives for the time being.
August 26, 2002
Apparently Crassus has been killed. There was a horrible defeat by the Parthians. I'm trying to get confirmation as well as details, but nonetheless I fear the worst for my longtime ally. This is terrible news for Rome.
I'm on my way back to Italy for a brief spell. It was as I thought: the other insurgent Gaul tribes have been thrown off by our lightning defeat of the Nervii, and they won't mount any offensives in the near future.
I'm thinking about poor Crassus. If it's true that he's dead, I need to pay much more attention to the political situation in Rome than I've been able to lately.
August 27, 2002
I've gotten a detailed update about the circumstances leading up to Crassus' death. At points I am sure some liberties have been taken, but the core narrative is right. So, here's the story. (This may take a few posts.)
When Pompey, Crassus and I met a few years ago to renew our alliance, we agreed that he could go ahead and attack the Parthians. While Parthia had not made any aggressive action against Rome, they had mastered a vast swath of the Middle East, had been massing their forces, and were fighting with the Armenians, whom we supported. Furthermore, their king, Orodes, is known to be a traitorous lecher who would kill his own son for political gain. We figured it would only be a matter of time before they did attack us, and so we agreed that a pre-emptive strike would be justified. So Crassus went on his way, although there were some bad omens - which were made into an issue for political reasons, of course.
After a season's worth of great successes - he bridged the Euphrates, and occupied a few Mesopotamian cities - he returned to Syria for the winter. I would have done things differently. There's no need to stop fighting because of the weather in that part of the world, so he should have continued on to Seleucia (a hotbed of anti-Parthian sentiment) rather than allow the enemy time to organize himself. But Crassus being Crassus, he was eager to manage his new tax revenue from the cities he liberated. Parthian ambassadors offered a truce if he withdrew from their country, but Crassus dismissed them. The Armenian king offered safe passage through his land, and especially thought the two armies should concentrate as a Parthian force had just entered Armenia, but Crassus put little stock in his ally's suggestion and instead returned to Mesopotamia.
While in the field, following the Euphrates, scouts saw a force of cavalry on the horizon, but the enemy retreated before much could be seen. An Arab chief named Ariamnes, known as a friend of Rome in the past, suggested Crassus pursue the force immediately. Ariamnes said it was only an an advance guard, and that Orodes had fled deep into the country in confusion. So they left the Euphrates and marched into the desert under the guidance of Ariamnes. Crassus marched his armies hard and barely allowed them a chance to refresh themselves at the one puny stream they passed. Suddenly scouts returned again, but this time only a handful were left. They had happened upon a massive Parthian force, much greater than the Arab chief had described, and only by chance did any of them escape at all.
For this Ariamnes had been deceiving them all along. It was not an 'advance guard' but fully half of the Parthian force, under the command of Surena, Orodes' best general. Orodes himself had indeed gone into Armenia and was devastating it. He had left Surena to stall the Roman army and learn more about their style of combat. However, Surena was so skilled and so ambitious he had every intention of fighting Crassus head-on.
More tomorrow, time permitting.
August 28, 2002
(The story of Crassus' unfortunate end, continued from yesterday's post.)
At first, to prevent encirclement, Crassus drew his forces up in a long and shallow line. Then, he reconsidered and had them form into a hollow square, so that cavalry could support any side when needed. The Parthians appeared, and there were far less of them than had originally been reported, so Crassus and his troops were reinvigorated. But a deep roaring sound then filled the plain. This is produced by the Parthians war drums, which involve brass bells as well as stretched hide and are beaten from all areas of the field, producing a terrifying sound, like that of a wild beast made of thunder. And at the same moment, the armour of thousands more enemy soldiers could be seen gleaming all around. For Surena had instructed his men to cover their armour with skins and so had hidden the bulk of his forces.
Before the Romans knew it they were nearly surrounded. Parthians rely heavily on cavalry, and their particular skill is archery on horseback. In this way they move quickly, firing arrows all the time, and can even retreat while pelting the enemy with arrows.
Crassus ordered his light infantry to charge - but they were overcome by the rain of arrows and had to turn back. The Romans were caught in an awkward situation: if they advanced they could not reach the enemy, but caught heavy fire, while if they stayed in formation the enemy need not even aim - they were so tightly packed together the Parthians were sure to hit someone. And in fact their heavy arrows were cutting right through the soldiers' shields and armour with equal ease.
The Romans hoped that if they could just hold out, the enemy would soon run out of arrows and break off the attack. But then they noticed that packs of camels were standing by with ammunition so that no archer need run out of arrows.
Crassus began to lose hope. Since the enemy was pressing hardest at his part of the line, he sent a message to his son Publius, asking him to lead a cavalry charge before it was too late. He figured it to be his last chance.
So Publius took 1300 cavalry and eight cohorts of infantry and rushed the enemy. The forces they hit were at that moment trying to complete the incirclement, and had hit some awkward terrain. They retreated speedily rather than face the Roman attack from that bad position. Publius figured he had them on the run, and pursued.
But he was wrong. He and his father had again been deceived.
I'm still en route to Italy - more tomorrow. I should really be writing my annual report to the Senate, but this is important.
September 02, 2002
Maybe I didn't exactly mean 'tomorrow.'
Publius and his men pursued the retreating Parthians with fervour. However, reinforcements appeared, joined with the first group and began to turn back towards the Romans. Publius halted his men, expecting the enemy to close in and join combat, but instead the Parthians rode circles around the Romans, kicking up great masses of dust and showering the confused legionaries with heavy arrows.
Publius realized he'd been had. Hoping to regain momentum, he ordered a cavalry charge - but his men turned to him with arms pinned to shields and legs pinned to the ground. The Parthian arrows are barbed and can't be pulled out of the body without lacerating it.
The Romans retreated to a nearby hill, but this only made matters worse. The chances of survival faded. When the Parthians made their final push, Publius and his officers took their own lives instead of being slaughtered by the enemy. The Parthians found his body, took the head, and rode back to the battle proper.
Crassus had received word that Publius had routed the Parthians, and indeed noted a slacking off in the Parthian onslaught, but when enemy soldiers rode by his front line with his son's head on a spear, he was made painfully aware of what had really happened. At that point the onslaught picked up again with renewed power. Crassus, however, stood tall and addressed his men, hoping that they might become incensed at the cruelty of their enemy and rally to victory. But while he spoke he saw on the men's faces the look of defeat.
It soon got dark and the Parthians called off their attack for the night. Only by abandoning their wounded to be slaughtered the next day did the Romans make it to shelter at Carrhae. When Serena got word of this he came to the city with his army, but rode up the the gates with only his best men and asked to speak with Crassus. Crassus appeared on the rampart. Serena told him that he had engaged with the Romans against his King's orders, as Orodes only wanted peace, and would happily offer a truce if Crassus agreed to leave his country.
Now Crassus had grown tired of the Parthians' treachery and saw no reason to believe them now. In fact, a couple days' march could bring his men to the mountains and from there they could flee in safety. But his men heard what Serena said, and were relieved - they were eager to accept the Parthian's words at face value. Crassus tried to convince them otherwise but they began abusing him. They called him a coward for not wanting to face the enemy himself, and they started banging their swords and shields together, yelling at him. Finally Crassus had no choice. He called out to his officers, "you see the shameful treatment I've been given, and you see I am being forced. Yet if you escape and make it home, tell them I died because the enemy tricked me, not because my own countrymen handed me to the enemy."
With that Crassus left with Serena and his men, and they disappeared over a hill. Minutes later Serena returned with Crassus' head. He ordered the Romans to surrender without fear. Some did, but many more fled in the night and were hunted down. All in all, 10,000 Romans were taken prisoner, and 20,000 were killed.
September 05, 2002
I'm back in Italy and am supervising my province's tax collection. From what I hear, the political situation in Rome gets worse and worse. And I'll have to rethink a few of my strategies in light of Crassus' death.
September 10, 2002
No magistrates have been elected, once again. Apparently friends of Pompey prevented the appointment of even an interrex. Campaigns are now underway, and are becoming violent: Clodius is running for the praetorship and Milo for consul. Their gangs are out in full force. Needless to say I'm in no way supporting Clodius, despite our past alliances.
September 12, 2002
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Now, it strikes me, it doesn't matter when in life your achievements occur, as long as you achieve them. So no thanks, Mr. Spammer. I won't purchase your magical product. I'm proud to have survived as long as this in such a hostile world.
September 16, 2002
So the death of Crassus obviously ruins the triumvirate. Ever since Julia's death, Pompey and I are increasingly distant. We have no blood tie any more. So I proposed that he marry my great-niece Octavia. I myself was willing to get a divorce and marry his daughter. But Pompey's not interested.
September 18, 2002
While I'm busy with other things, why not learn some history? The Punic Wars were an exciting and formative time for Rome, during which she rose up and threw off a powerful enemy, and became a great power herself for the first time. (via Ethel)
September 22, 2002
There are more and more signs of a reconciliation between Pompey and the Optimates, the wealthy and powerful men of the Senate. I'm not sure what Pompey stands to gain from this, but quite clearly the Senate can gain much. And I have much to lose.
As uneasy as this makes me, I must put aside political concerns and return to Gaul to finish what I started.