I have been away for a while now in the Roman Army. Do not worry about me though, I am doing well. Well at least much better now that I’m not dead or a prisoner. I joined the army because I wanted to protect the Empire and my family.
Also, the wages for soldiers are higher than any other job, so I can send money home to help them. By the time I finish I will be rich, because I will receive a pension and a piece of land!My name is Caium Avilus and I use lots of different equipment to help me. I have a shield to protect me and a sword to attack. I also have a bow and arrow to shoot the enemy if they are far away. I think my most useful piece of equipment is my armor because it protects me when people try to stab me with their swords! Also, I practiced several different tactics, and this helps us to win in battles. Some are useful for attacking and others help us defend ourselves. The best one is the tortoise, because we form a sort of shell with our shields to protect us from arrows and spears, which allows us to move forwards without getting hurt. The cavalry is divided into ten parts or troops.
In each of these, three captains first are chosen; who afterwards appoint three other officers to conduct the rear. The first of the captains commands the whole troop. The other two hold the rank and office of decurions; and all of them are called by that name. In the absence of the first captain, the next in order takes the entire command.
The manner in which these troops are armed is at this time the same as that of the Greeks. But anciently it was very different. For, first, they wore no armor upon their bodies but were covered with only an undergarment. In this method, they were able to descend from their horses, or leap up again upon them, with greater quickness and facility. Since they were almost naked, they were too much exposed to danger in all those engagements. The spears also that were in use were very unfit for service.
They were of a slender make, and always trembled in the hand, it not only was extremely difficult to direct them with exactness towards the destined mark, but very frequently, even before their points had reached the enemy, the greatest part of them were shaken into pieces by the bare motion of the horses. Add to this that these spears, not being armed with iron at the lowest end, were formed to strike only with the point and when they were broken by this stroke, were afterwards incapable of any farther use. Every time we are done with training, we are commanded to return to our respective habitations, till the day arrives, upon which we are bound by oath to assemble together in a certain place appointed by the consuls.
Each of the consuls usually appoints a different place for the assembling of his whole army. No pretense of accident is at any time allowed to those that are enrolled. No excuse given in opposition to our oath, to discharge us from appearing on the day of war will be accepted. The only way is if some disaster happens which makes attendance absolutely impracticable.
When all soldiers are met together, the distribution of the allies, who are assembled among us Romans, is regulated by twelve officers, called prefects, and appointed by the consuls. Our tactics are what makes us so successful. There was a time however when our great army wasn’t successful. My wounds have not yet finished healing. A month ago, still in this year of 216 BC, our army mobilized a force of 86,000 legionaries and auxiliaries under consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro and sent them against some 50,000 men under the great Carthaginian general Hannibal. Our consuls alternated their daily command, and Varro was in charge on the day of battle.
I thought for sure that our great number would lead to another victory.As the battle opened, the Carthaginian cavalry overpowered and scattered our cavalry on the legions’ right flank. It was so tough watching my brothers go down in such pain. They would scream in pain and agony, but I couldn’t do anything because I had my own fights to worry about. Killing as much of the enemy as I can was the goal. It got to the point where their screams turned into white noise that I got accustomed to. Normally the screams of the enemy were normal, but this right here, I could tell more of our guys were going down.
Key voices and battle cries that I personally knew stuck out to me. A name matched each voice. So much concentration was required for me to keep going and stay alive. The Carthaginians then rode around our Roman army to destroy the cavalry on the legions’ left flank, which was skirmishing with the Numidian light horse. Then our right flank was promptly disintegrated, allowing Hannibal’s brother, Hasdrubal, to turn his heavy cavalry against the rear of our legions. Hearing my brothers die so much would have affected me a lot more if I didn’t have proper training.
My bravery overcame fear and the thought that we might lose this fight and I might die. With fear is when you make the costly mistakes.Meanwhile, my infantry had advanced against Hannibal’s center, which yielded (without breaking) before the onrush of a large amount of our superior forces. By now I had taken out so many of their guys that I lost count. Along the way, a few guys managed to get some hits on me. I took multiple slashes on my swinging arm. On the same arm, my wrist is sore and swollen from swinging my sword and from jabbing so much. At one point I took a gigantic blow to the back of my head from some heavy and blount weapon that someone had.
My balance was off and surely, they would have finished me off while I was on the ground if it wasn’t for a runaway horse that came in and ran them over. That hit did knock my helmet off leaving my head as a target of fists and elbows for people that dropped their weapons. And man did I take a lot of haymakers from my blind side. One of the most painful hits I took was a rock that was thrown and smacked against my kneecap. My shield was also getting weaker and could only endure so many more hits.
Slowly giving ground, Hannibal’s forces drew us into a deep convex while his Libyan infantry standing fast on the flanks. Eventually the Carthaginian forces overlapped the line and closed in on the legionaries who were on the verge of cracking Hannibal’s line. Hasdrubal’s cavalry charged from the rear, sealing our legionaries’ fate. Attacked from all sides by cavalry and infantry with short swords, we were all pressed together, finding it impossible to properly wield our weapons. My face was swollen, I had blood dripping in my eye, lacerations on my arms, a concussion, a swollen knee, and a swollen wrist. Others were worse of then me with missing fingers, gouged eyes, broken skulls, broken legs, and blood coming out of multiple places in the abdominal area. Even so, many of us included myself fought on in desperation until many of us were killed and few were captured as prisoners.
This was our worst military defeat ever.When Hannibal took eight 8,000 of us Romans soldiers as prisoners, we were left to guard the camp. He permitted us to send a deputation to Rome, to treat of a ransom and redemption.
The most illustrious ten soldiers, me being one of them, were appointed for this purpose. And the general commanded us to swear that we would return to him again. I remember as soon as we had passed the entrenchment, one of us said that he had forgotten something, went back into camp, took what he had left, and then continued his journey with us. He did this because technically he did return back to Hannibal, therefore he kept his promise and satisfied the obligation of the oath. So now he won’t go back. When they arrived at Rome, we earnestly entreated the senate not to envy us the safety that was offered, but to help our fellow men to be restored to their families, at the price of three minae for each prisoner, which was the sum that Hannibal demanded.
They were worthy of this favor because they didn’t go through cowardice, deserted their post in battle, nor done anything that had brought dishonor upon the Roman name. Now we were deserted by almost every one of our allies and seemed even to expect that Rome would instantly be attacked. Yet when our government officials had heard the deputies, they neither were deterred by adverse fortune from attending to what was fit and right, nor neglected any of those measures that were necessary to the public safety. But perceiving that the design of Hannibal in this proceeding was both to acquire a large supply of money and at the same time to check the ardor of his enemies in battle, by opening to our view the means of safety, even though we should be conquered, the senate were so far from yielding to this request, that they showed no regard either to the distressed condition of our fellow citizens, or to the services that might be expected from the prisoners. Instead, they resolved to disappoint the hopes and frustrate the intentions of this general by rejecting all terms of ransom. Our government now made a law by which it was declared that the soldiers that were left must either conquer or must die and that no other hope of safety was reserved for them, in case that they were conquered.
It broke my heart hearing that. Our fellow brothers trapped behind enemy lines with no help coming for them. To think positive on the situation I could only be proud that to die for their country is to die with great honor.After this determination 9 out of the 10 of us that were sent back were allowed to stay in Rome without living up to the promise of going back.
We could stay because it was honorable that we were willing to honor our promise to go back. The one person that was sent back was the one soldier that had went back to grab something he left thus completing his promise. Our government didn’t see that as honorable, so he had no choice but to go back to be a prisoner.
I do enjoy being a part of the Roman Army because I get very good training and the wages are higher than any other job. It is hard work, but it is worth it in the end! I am fighting to protect my country and my family, and that makes me happy. It is time to heal up and prepare our revenge on Hannibal.