Marching With Caesar: Conquest of Gaul

Marching With Caesar: Conquest of Gaul
R. W. Peake
R.W. Peake (2012)
Rating:
****

Marching With Caesar-Conquest of Gaul is a first-person narrative, written in the form of a memoir as dictated to a scribe of Titus Pullus, Legionary, Optio, First Spear Centurion of Caesar's 6th and 10th Legion. The memoir is written three years after his retirement as Camp Prefect, when Titus is 61 years old. Titus, along with his boyhood friend Vibius Domitius, joins the 10th Legion in the draft of 61 BC, when Gaius Julius Caesar is the governor of Spain. Titus and Vibius are assigned to a tent group, with seven other men who will become their closest friends during their times in the legion. Titus, Vibius and their comrades endure the harsh training regimen that made the legions the most feared military force in the ancient world. The 10th Legion is blooded in a series of actions in Spain, led by Caesar in a campaign that was the true beginning of one of the most brilliant military careers in history. Three years after joining the legions, the 10th is called on again, this time to be part of the subjugation of Gaul, one of the greatest feats of arms in any period of history. During the subsequent campaigns, the 10th cements its reputation as Caesar's most favored and trusted legion, and is involved in most of the major actions during this period. This first book of a completed series closes with Caesar crossing the Rubicon, and the 10th preparing to march to war, this time against fellow Romans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marching With Caesar-Conquest of Gaul

 

R.W. Peake

 

Published by R.W. Peake

 

Smashwords Edition

 

Copyright 2012 R.W. Peake

 

Cover Art by Marina Shipova

 

Cover Artwork Copyright 2012 R. W. Peake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Bri

 

My Touchstone

 

 

 

 

Foreword

 

 

 

Like all such works, this is a labor of love, but I won't go into all the sacrifices I made during the four year odyssey to get this done. Nor will I talk about the fact that I bought the complete kit of a Roman Legionary and tromped around the wastelands of Big Bend National Park in order to get a feel for what it might have been like to be one of those men that Caesar used to change not just his world, but the world we live in today. (I will mention that I used Big Bend not as much for its rugged terrain but for its remoteness, and because the likelihood that one of the drug runners I might encounter was carrying a camera was very small. There are some things better left unseen.)

 

What I will say is that, again like all such works, this would not have been possible without the unwavering support of my family, consisting as it does of my mother and daughter, and although small in number, they are mighty in the power of their love. To them, particularly to my Mom, I owe a debt of gratitude that I can only hope this effort of mine goes a small way to pay. Also, I would like to thank Dr. Frank Holt of the University of Houston, for his unwitting role in introducing me to ancient Rome, and by expressing his passion for the subject he was teaching, imbuing in me a sense of curiosity that drove me to delve more deeply into that world myself. Finally, thanks to Dr. Janet Lucas of Peninsula College for her help with editing and encouragement at a time when it was really needed.

 

I have endeavored to make this work historically accurate, and to portray the lives of the men in this novel in as authentic a manner as possible. When I began my exploration of Ancient Rome, starting with the classics before going on to the excellent series by Colleen McCullough, I noticed something that bothered me a great deal. As I expanded my reading of the fiction genre covering Ancient Rome, what I discovered was that, while there were a number of authors who portrayed the lives of common Legionaries (Simon Scarrow's Macro and Cato series most notably), they all focus on the time period after the reforms of Augustus. However, all of the works of historical fiction that cover the Late Republic are all focused on the "movers and shakers" of the day, and not on the lives of the men in the ranks. This is not surprising, when one thinks about it, simply because of the amount of material detailing the lives of the people, particularly those men in the Legions, is so much more abundant when compared to the time period known as the Late Republic. But I think that this does a grave injustice to the memories of those men who marched with the original Caesar, particularly because his actions, and by extension theirs as well, had the most impact on what Rome would become than any other figure from Roman history. Without Caesar, there is no Octavian, and there are no Caesars.

 

That is the motivation behind this work. One day, as I was reading about Caesar, the thought struck me; what was it like for his men? What was it like to be standing in the ranks, facing the Gauls of Vercingetorix, or looking over your shield on the dusty plains of Pharsalus? What were their lives like when they weren't fighting? What did they talk about as they sat around the fire at night? It was from this idea that Marching With Caesar was born. But what was more important to me than the story itself was the accuracy of the research behind it. This is probably due to my training as a History major and the rigorous belief in the use of primary sources drilled into me by my professors. Of course, there is a dearth of sources when it comes to documenting the everyday life of a Roman Legionary in the 10th Legion, of the enlistment raised by Gaius Julius Caesar in 61 BC. This is, pun slightly intended, a sword that cuts both ways. While it gives me as an author some freedom and flexibility to create a world that fits my narrative goals, it also requires me to strike a very fine balance if I want to adhere to my number one goal, authenticity. Fortunately for my research purposes, but not necessarily my pocketbook, there was a revival of interest in the exploits of Caesar in the late 18th and 19th centuries, spawning a number of excellent works on the period. Much of that scholarship was based on the work of the tireless Col. Stoffel, under the auspices of Napoleon III for his own work on Caesar. Out of this body of work from the 19th century, I relied most heavily on the work of T. Rice Holmes, and in fact, the maps that are part of this book are from his works "Caesar's Conquest of Gaul" and "Ancient Britain and The Invasions of Julius Caesar". Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to "walk" about the battlefields of Gaul, most notably the site of Caesar's second battle with the Helvetii outside Toulon sur Arroux, his desperate fight with the Nervii on the Sambre River, and of course, Alesia, all of this done using Google Earth's 3D view.

 

But perhaps the most valuable part of my research was not found in the written material, but in my experience as a career Infantry Marine. Because although the technology might change, the essence of the fighting man and those things that are important to him never do. One only has to read the first-person accounts from any war through the ages to know that life for a "grunt", no matter what era they come from, is boiled down to its most basic essence. Food, sports, women, the stupidity of officers, women, the harshness of NCO's, women, the brutal work, women, and what surprises most civilians, humor. A lot of humor, although it is almost all tinged with cruelty, but even in the harshest conditions, under the most trying of circumstances, fighting men find ways to laugh, mostly at each other, but at themselves as well. If this is true for the men who fought at Antietam, Waterloo, or even Agincourt, I don't think the conversations would be all that different sitting outside a tent in a Roman military camp. Whether it's about the chances of the USC Trojans being in the BCS Championship game or which chariot team is the best, the Greens or Blues, the essence remains the same; anything but the pervasive fear that tinges the inner thoughts and nightmares of men in combat. I do think that one slight difference between today's warriors and their Roman counterparts lies in their attitude towards the politics of the day. The average Roman citizen was much more involved politically than their modern counterparts, but I think this has more to do with the idea that Roman politics, particularly of the era covered in Marching With Caesar was just as much of a bloodsport than any contest in the arena.

 

I have also chosen something of a hybrid approach between two extremes. Anyone who has read the McCullough series will probably recall that whenever possible, she used the proper Latin terms and colloquialisms, while most other authors in the genre have Anglicized everything, including the curse words. I have chosen to use a sprinkling of expressions and words in Latin that I found particularly evocative, but for the most part have chosen the latter route in everything else. The other exception is in my use of the proper Latin terms for ranks, which I do for a number of reasons. Probably the most important one is that, perhaps counter-intuitively, I believe using the Latin ranks is less confusing. For example, most semi-serious students of Roman history know that the Primus Pilus is the Senior Centurion of a Legion, and that has been Anglicized as First Spear. But where it gets confusing, at least for me, is how to characterize, for example, the Centurion in command of the Fourth Century, Fifth Cohort. Characterizing it as such seems very awkward to me, and I think the Latin rank of Quintus Princeps Posterior is actually easier on the eye, once one learns the rank structure. To make that easier, I have included a Glossary, with these ranks and some of the other terms with which casual readers may be unfamiliar.

 

For serious Romanophiles who might spot what they see as inaccuracies or inconsistencies, for the most part these are intentional. While I will not go into detail about my reasons for doing so here, what I will say is that most of these differences between the account of battles that can be found in Caesar's Commentaries, for example, and what my characters experience is my way of illustrating how different a battle can look, depending on one's perspective. For a man in the ranks, fighting for his life and the life of his comrades, what his commander might see as a complete victory can easily look like a resounding defeat to the blood-spattered and weary men of the Legions. Also, while the rules and regulations of the Roman army are fairly well-known, that knowledge primarily covers two distinct and separate eras. First is what is known as the Polybian Legion, followed by the Legions of the Empire, particularly the Late Empire. While there are many similarities between the two, there are also key differences, most of them coming about as part of the Augustan reforms. Smack dab in between these two extremes are those Legions of the Late Republic, and for which very little documentary evidence exists. Again, this is both an opportunity and a challenge, and anyone interested in a more in-depth explanation and analysis of some of these differences, a complete bibliography of my sources, along with a more detailed map that shows all of Gaul and the tribal territories, please visit
http://www.marchingwithcaesar.com
.

 

Finally, I hope you enjoy reading about Titus Pullus, Vibius Domitius, Sextus Scribonius, and all of the other men of the tent section that comprised part of the First Century, Second Cohort of Caesar's 10th Legion as much as I did bringing them to life.

 

 

 
Semper Fidelis,
 
R. W. Peake
 
March, 2012
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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