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Topic Subject: The Battle of Lugdunum
posted 23 October 2015 05:32 EDT (US)   
Hello. I'm relatively new to this forum (and several years late, evidently), but i've written a couple of brief stories here. I don't think my writing skills are very good (certainly nothing compared to some of the giants of this forum, like Terikel Grayhair), but I enjoy this forum and Rome Total War, so I write a little now and then. The one i'm about to write is based on a battle I had recently. If it's well-received, perhaps i'll continue to write stories here in the future, maybe even longer ones than about a single battle.


General Marcus Julius was sitting in his tent. He tried not to let the noise of the battering rams being constructed outside distract him as he reviewed his battle plan. He and his army were encamped outside the walls of the Briton-ruled city of Lugdunum in eastern Gaul, to which they were laying siege. Inside the city was the British king, an old warlord who had conquered a large part of the known world. Though his force inside the city wasn't large (the bulk of his forces were concentrated in Germania and northern Gaul), he wasn't to be underestimated. Marcus Julius was continually going over and revising his plan for the coming battle, to the exasperation of his officers. Finally when he decided that he could think no more due to the racket outside and his own lack of sleep, he sat back to rest his eyes. He thought back to the meeting that had led him to this day.

Months earlier, Marcus had been in Massilia, where he was serving as governor. He took over when his grandfather, the great Flavius, had passed away there. Marcus was heir to the leadership of the House of Julius, one of the most powerful families in Rome, and sought to make himself worthy of the position by leading a successful military campaign. But he had been unlucky. While his brother and cousins fought in Macedonia and Greece, he had been placed in the most quiet frontier of the Roman world, Massilia, guarding the border with Gaul. It had been many years since the Julii were last at war with Gaul, and he didn't see the need to be confined there and end up forgotten in Rome while his relatives won all the glory he sought for himself. Then one day, his opportunity arrived.

Marcus was sitting in his office in the governor's villa, going through his correspondence, when there was a knock at the door and his assistant entered.

"Sir. An envoy from Gaul is here to see you."

Marcus looked up with surprise. He had had little contact with the Gauls in the several years he had been serving as governor here. Though Massilia did serve as a center of trade with Gaul, the Gauls were still bitter over their crushing defeat by Flavius and preferred to keep political relations with the Romans to a minimum. Rarely did the king of Gaul send a messenger to him. This must be something important.

"Send him in."

A silver-haired, thick-mustached man entered the room. Marcus recognized him as Senaculus of Sabis, a diplomat who had served the Gaulish king since the time of Flavius. Marcus had met him only once before.

The two men exchanged greetings and Marcus bade the Gaul to sit.

"I have come to bring to you a proposal from my king. I understand that you are not currently the top leader in Rome, but I gather that, as governor of Massilia and heir to the leadership of the Julii, you are able to conduct important diplomatic negotiations and make important decisions regarding relations between Rome and Gaul."

Well, at least someone recognizes my status, Marcus thought.

"What proposal does the king of Gaul send to me?"

"An alliance."

Marcus raised his eyebrows, not bothering to hide his surprise. This was the last thing he expected from the Gauls.

"An alliance? What sort of an alliance?"

"As I am sure you know, Gaul has been at war with Spain for the last two years and we were recently invaded by Britannia. Britannia is spreading like a plague across the northern lands, unstoppable. Now that they've crushed the Germans, they've turned against us. It's only a matter of time until they turn against you too, you who have the richest lands within reach. Gaul cannot defeat the Britons alone, but our king believes that it would be in the mutual interests of Gaul and Rome to form an alliance against Britannia and force them back together. I know that our two countries have our differences, but I am sure that Rome does not want to see a vast Britannian empire pushing against its borders, replacing not only Germania but also Gaul and Dacia all at once. It's not too late to prevent that from happening. If we work together, we can stop the Britons and push them back to their island."

Marcus sat back and thought. He did know about the dangers of Britannia, and had brought it up in the Senate last time he visited. The Britons seemed to be an unstoppable force and, indeed, it appeared inevitable that they would ultimately come south to the warm and rich lands of Italia. He had called on the Senate to scale back the wars in the east and prepare to face the looming danger to the north. Marcus did expect war, but he did not expect an alliance with Gaul in this war. In fact, he had been worried that Gaul might ally with Britannia against Rome. However, Senaculus was right; whatever issues Rome had with Gaul, replacing Gaul with a vast, expansion-oriented Britannian empire was not in Rome's interests. An alliance could save Gaul and at the same time bind Gaul to Rome while securing the northern frontier from Britannia, thus ensuring a long-term peace in Rome's north. He was confident that the Senate would support him if he accepted the Gaulish alliance.

"I see. By and large, i'm in agreement with you, and I expect that my father and the Senate will be as well. So, let's discuss the nature of this alliance. What terms does your king propose?"

"For one, he wants a free hand in Spain, not to be interfered with by the Romans if he decides to, and is able to, conquer the entire peninsula. With the exception of the former Carthaginian city of Corduba, which you already rule. Secondly, a guarantee of no further Roman expansion at the expense of Gaul. And perhaps Roman acquiescence to Gaulish conquest of the island of Britain, if we should win the war."

"And what does Rome get out of this alliance?"

"Besides a secure northern frontier and a profitable, long-term peace with Gaul?" Senaculus smiled, barely visible under his massive mustache. "What terms would be acceptable to Rome?"

"We want Lugdunum. Since your king doesn't already rule it, I believe such a request doesn't go against your terms of no further Roman expansion against Gaul. We also want the former Germanian lands that have been swallowed up by the Britons. In return, you may have Spain, with the exception of Corduba, and the island of Britain."

"So you have thought about this. I believe your terms are acceptable to my king. So, we are agreed?"

"Yes, we are agreed. Let us draw up a formal treaty of alliance. I will present it to the Roman Senate, and I am confident that they will accept it. Our armies will be prepared to march against Britannia within a month or two."

That was two months ago. Now Marcus sat at the gates of Lugdunum, preparing to do battle with the British king. Finally the noise outside stopped, and a centurion entered the tent and saluted.

"Sir! The construction of the rams is complete. We are ready to attack the walls whenever you give the order."

"Good. Assemble the officers in this tent. We will go over the plans one last time, let the men sleep and get rested up for the fight, and attack in the morning."

A short while later the officers were assembled around the table in Marcus's tent.

"The time has come, men. This isn't going to be an easy battle. The British force is smaller than ours, but led by the king himself, an old war leader who enjoys legendary status in Britannia and greatly inspires his troops. However, if we can defeat and kill this king here, it may make the overall war against Britannia go easier by throwing the enemy into confusion.

The main Roman force will attack in three points along the southern wall. The Gaulish mercenaries will attack the eastern gate, and we will lend the Roman archers to support them, as we will have the bulk of the cavalry in the south. The Britons have many swordsmen, some of their hardest troops, and we want to divide them on two fronts and spread them out so as to weaken them; we don't want to have to fight them head-on all in one place. There are also the chariots to consider. Our spy in the city tells us that there are as many as 90 chariots. Now, in the first stage of the battle, we will begin with...."

The next morning, after Marcus gave the customary pre-battle speech to the troops, the Roman forces lined up for battle and awaited the order.

"Rams, forward!"

The battering rams rolled up to the southern and eastern walls and gates of the city. The troops could distantly hear the British king on the other side giving his own pre-battle speech to his own troops in their incomprehensible tongue.

As the rams slowly broke down the walls, Marcus ordered the missile troops to begin firing to drive the Britons back. But just the opposite happened. As soon as the southern gates smashed open, a band of British swordsmen came charging out.

Well, this is fine, Marcus thought. The idiots are only one warband, attacking right in the middle of our lines, thus opening themselves up to encirclement. Marcus had never fought the Britons before, but he knew that British swordsmen had a reputation for reckless individual action, even charging without orders into suicidal circumstances. The British king was probably cursing up a storm over this. Even his influence couldn't impose perfect discipline on these wild tribesmen.

Marcus ordered the two peripheral centuries to rush forward and attack the swordsmen from behind, surrounding them. You have to hand it to them, he thought; the Britons fought to the last man. What a waste of such bravery. This makes our job easier, though. After the last swordsman fell, Marcus ordered the Roman troops to the gaps created by the rams, and prepared to enter the city.

In the east, the Gaulish mercenaries with their one ram broke down the eastern gate and found a warband waiting for them. They drove the Britons back from the gateway with fire arrows from the Roman archers, bellowed out an earth-shaking war cry, and charged.

The troops along the southern wall encountered surprisingly little resistance. It seemed that the British king was conserving the bulk of his forces to fight on the large hill in the center of the city, recognizing that he would have a better chance there than by dispersing his forces along the walls. This was both a blessing and a curse to Marcus, who was able to enter the city with relative ease but hoped to divide the British swordsmen and chariots on more than one front. Regardless, the British did deploy SOME forces to harass the Romans trying to enter the south, in the form of chariot archers. Knowing that to enter the open city and directly engage chariots was suicide, Marcus ordered the troops to throw all the pila they had at the chariots before entering. It worked. The bulk of the chariots went down and the rest fled to the center of the city. The way was now clear and the Roman forces entered through the breaches and formed up in the southern part of the city.

The Gaulish mercenaries didn't have such an easy time. Upon entering the city, they were set upon from two directions. First, the British warband that had retreated from the fire arrows doubled back and attacked the Gauls head-on while they were in the middle of entering through the gateway. Secondly, another warband which had sneaked around from the side attacked their unprotected right flank. The archers were unable to lend any support due to the risk of hitting their own men. The mercenary forces were in serious danger of collapse. The Gaulish captain ordered his trumpeter to signal Marcus that assistance was needed now.

In the south, Marcus heard the distress signal and cursed. He had assumed the Gauls would be able to handle themselves, and didn't want to have to put his cavalry forces at risk by crossing half the city unprotected and running into enemy troops, especially chariots. At the same time, he couldn't afford to have the Gauls lose and flee the battle, leaving the Britons free to concentrate all their forces on the Romans in the south. He decided, against his better judgment, to divide his infantry forces. He ordered two centuries to march up the central hill and form up and hold between two buildings facing the city square, and the other three centuries to march toward the northeast along the bottom of the central hill, protecting the cavalry which would travel to the east gate along the inside of the walls.

Sure enough, the Roman forces soon ran into trouble on the way to aid the Gauls. Two bands of swordsmen charged at the Roman infantry from up the central hill, while chariot archers fired upon both them and the other two Roman centuries holding in the south.

Nevertheless, this prevented the Britons from intercepting Marcus and his cavalry on their way to the eastern gate. When they reached it, fierce fighting ensued. Already dozens of Gaulish mercenaries had fallen, and the rest were barely holding their ground. Marcus was doing his best to rally and motivate them, but the Britons simply refused to break.

Meanwhile the three Roman centuries tasked with preventing the Britons from reaching the east gate had come under attack by chariots in addition to swordsmen. It was nearly impossible to hold a good defensive line, and men were falling like flies, mangled under the chariot spikes. Morale was nearing the point of collapse. It was beginning to look as though the entire battle may be lost.

Then, at long last, and at the cost of a large part of the cavalry, the British forces at the east gate finally collapsed into a rout, at which point they were massacred by Marcus's cavalry. Marcus then ordered the exhausted Gaulish mercenaries to the center of the city toward the square, while he himself and what was left of the equites went to aid the beleaguered Romans at the bottom of the hill. The swordsmen began to rout as soon as the cavalry crashed into their backs, and the chariots went back to the city square.

Marcus spoke to the troops. "Men! I know you're exhausted and have already lost many of your friends, but the battle is nearly won. All that remains now is to take the city square, and Lugdunum will be in our hands. At which point the city is yours to do with what you will! Their homes, their goods and treasures, their wives and daughters, all will be yours! Now, who will follow me to the center of the city and help me kill that bastard king?!?" The tired and bloodied men let out an enthusiastic cheer and began marching up the hill towards the city center.

We're almost there, Marcus thought as the Roman and Gaulish mercenary forces took up their positions surrounding the city center, but he knew that victory was still not a foregone conclusion. He had lost many men, and the rest were tired. The Britons still had a few warbands left and were likely to fight hard now that they had nowhere left to retreat. Marcus knew that he couldn't retreat either. His political career depended on it. If he suffered a crushing defeat at this early juncture, right at the very beginning of his first war, while his relatives were conquering Greece and the eastern Mediterranean, he knew he would be disinherited and it would be his brother who would become leader of the Julii. He wouldn't be able to live with the shame. No, thought Marcus, I will win here or I will die here, and raised his gladius.

"Charge!!!", Marcus screamed, and the Roman troops ran forward to engage the Britons. The Britons also charged, and the chariots rolled out to attack the Roman flanks. Marcus had held the Gaulish mercenaries in reserve this time, and now ordered them to go around and attack the chariots from behind, leaving them with no open space in which to operate any longer. It worked; the chariots were trapped and unable to move in the crush between armies, and were quickly destroyed. Marcus and his cavalry attacked the Britons from the rear repeatedly, charging and withdrawing and charging again. Eventually the British lines finally collapsed and the battle came to an end. The king was found dead some hours later by the edge of the square.

This was the battle that made Marcus Julius's political career. He went on to lead victory after victory over the armies of Britannia, pushing them out of Germania and ultimately conquering the island of Britain itself, which the Gauls had failed to reach. Marcus's father, Lucius Julius, died two years into the war, making him leader of the Julii. Some years after that, jealous and fearful of his power, the Roman Senate outlawed Marcus and declared war on the House of Julius. Marcus then overcame the other Roman factions, overthrew the Senate and became emperor of Rome.

[This message has been edited by Kawada Shogo (edited 10-23-2015 @ 05:47 AM).]

posted 24 October 2015 13:05 EDT (US)     1 / 1  
This is quite good!

I liek the way the action flows: logical, detailed, and well-described. I can sense the frustration and tiredness of the soldiers as they slug through the morass of dead and dying friends and foes, seeking to fulfill their commander's will and strike down one more foe before Detah or Sleep takes them off...

Very nice!

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