Thursday, 29 July 2010

Great Battle in Magna Graecia

Senatus Populusque Romanum.  Ave!  I bring news of a great battle against the encroaching Punic enemy in this year of our Republic CCXIV, the consulship of Lucius Volumnius Flamma Violens and Appius Claudius Caecus.  Well may you remember the stalemate that ensued after the perfidious descendants of Tyrian Dido attacked our peace-loving legions some years ago.  Their habit of using money to buy the loyalty of mercenary Greeks from Sicily has continued, as they recruited a second invasion force to try the temperament of the Romans once again.  Our proconsuls Publius Decius Mus and Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus took up position to await the enemy:
Decius had the consulship of the day and he set up our legions in the best defensive position he could find, their left resting on a wood and their right on a low rise; the rest of the field was open.  In the woods he concealed our Latin equites, with the legions to their right.  He assigned his consular partner Rullianus to the right, commanding the dexter Latin Legio, the Italian allies (effete city dwellers, mostly) and the Roman equites, hidden out of sight behind the hill.  Decius positioned himself behind the legions in the centre.  As the piercing rays of the aureate sun dispersed the morning mist, we discerned the enemy coming on apace.  As is their way, the few native Carthaginians were on horseback on the left wing of their forces, accompanied by wild Numidians.  They ride without bridle or saddle, trusting to a piece of woven hemp and their own prodigious skill to control their foaming mounts.  Their infantry were mercenaries all, aside from the purported Sacred Band: Syracusan hoplites, some wandering Gauls and the few Spanish who have remained loyal to their orient-born overlords.  Their right was thinly held by more Numidians.  The two armies being slightly offset, a hasty council of war was held by the Romans.  It was agreed that the command of Rullianus would hold, allowing the rest of the army to pivot on their position; once aligned a general advance would begin with the legions making for the mercenary hoplites at an angle, as a hunstman marks out his prey in the midst of a flock of birds.

Unfortunately for the Romans, in his pride and spite against Decius, long standing and to the detriment of this our country, as you well know, Rullianus instead advanced his flank guard and legion, choosing to try to win immortal glory by attacking the main forces of the Punic invaders with his own smaller contingent.

I was sent by Decius to reason with his errant colleague, but to no avail.  I arrived just in time to see the Roman equites thunder over the hill and into the arms of the waiting Spanish foot, the prefect having been ordered to do so by Rullianus.  I tried to remonstrate with him as best I could and within the allowed degrees of decorum, but his answer was that Decius should immediately send reinforcements.

Even the Italian militia advanced to join the fray as the Latins attacked instead of holding position as had been agreed.  As I prepared to leave with my report to Decius, Rullianus said that he would assault the "hinge" (O strange term, never before used in the annals of military history) of the enemy army.  I continued on my way, alarmed that the advance of the Latin legion would preclude the other Legions from wheeling in to support.  My heart sank as I realised that the attack of the holding formations would soon be scattered by the superior hoplites, allowing them and their cavalry to sweep in on the unprotected right flank of our famous legions.

I delivered my report.  Decius ordered the Latin prefect of horse to attack with all due speed, while he himself rode furiously to try to catch up with them, to reign them in and keep them moving into the right rear of the enemy army instead of pursuing the enemy immediately to their front.

In the meantime, the central legions were left by Decius in the care of a deft youthful legate, Marcus Atilius Regulus, who performed wonders beyond his young years.  A name with which to conjure portents, O glory of Rome! 

The lines clashed fearfully amidst the horrible clamour of war.  The Romans met manfully with the Gauls who had chosen unwisely to throw in their lot with the Punic enemy.  On our left, the Numidians melted like driven snow before the rushing onset of our Italian equites.

With the Numidians scattered to the four winds, the Italians crashed into the exposed flank of the hapless Gauls, even before Decius could reach them in person.  O Bellona, what a slaughter was there!

The lines of foot came together with a mighty roar as Regulus led the Roman legions to the test of battle with the enemy to his front.

But it was all to no avail. The troops who should have stayed still on our right had advanced to their doom, and the flank of the legions was terribly exposed to the victorious enemy there.  Just as I had feared.

Breakthrough!  The Italian horse did wonders as the entire right of the enemy line panicked; even their much vaunted Sacred Band was shaken to the core.

But it was all too late as the enemy foot uncovered their own horse and the rightmost legions were destroyed.  The foresight of Decius and the deeds of Regulus saved the leftmost half of our army as they carved their way through the enemy to freedom.

There has been a great battle, and Rome has been defeated.


  1. Brilliant report, Paul! Very atmospheric! The house of Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus has been shamed!

  2. Hi Ian, thanks for the comment. Can you tell I've been reading Vergil again recently? You were Regulus, by the way...