Starts on Page
Fortune Favours the Brave
Puppet on a String
Death of a Golden Ambition
The End of a Bad Year
Rendezvous With Fate
Return to Gaul
The Siege of Avaricum
Demetrius & the Aedui
Detachment & Diversion
Return to Duty
Caesar Changes Tack
Scaeva Fills in the Gaps
The Rebellion Spreads
Alesia – The Beginning
The Siege Works
Death Throes of Rebellion
To a Death
The Chryselephantine Statue
The Relief Army at Alesia
Also in this series by the same author:
Caesar’s Tribune: first published in 2006. ISBN: 0-7552-1033-6
Master of Gaul: first published in 2006. ISBN: 0-7552-1044-1
Albion Ablaze: first published in 2009. ISBN: 978-7552-1117-3
The Story So Far
his is the on-going story of Marcus Rutilius, one of Julius Caesar’s military ‘deputies’ (a legate), as he fights to bring the tribes of Outer Gaul under the suzerainty of the growing Roman Empire, a major pillar in his bid to reform the Republic into a multi-national, multi-talented meritocracy.
What’s special about Marcus? If you are new to the story then you need to know that our hero is not what he seems. Yes, he is a Roman officer of patrician birth in the life we are experiencing through his eyes. No, that is definitely not his main claim on our attention.
Marcus is the alter ego of Michael Oakwood, a British Army officer, who suffered a serious head injury in action during an anti-immigration border patrol in the Balkans in the early 21st Century. The Roman Tribune, Marcus Rutilius Robura took a knock on the head in a cavalry skirmish on the same battlefield at precisely the same time and on precisely the same day in the year 60 BC in ancient Illyricum. The two men – in some inexplicable time warp – have changed places. Michael IS now Marcus. From time to time in what appear to be dreams he visits the real Marcus, who seems always to be busy writing at his computer desk in modern England, although there is no communication between them.
But don’t imagine that the Marcus whose life we are following has any desire to return to modern times. For one thing he has acquired a beautiful and strangely perceptive Greek wife and soul mate, and now has two small children; for another he has a twin sister, who can also read him like a book and is married to his close friend and ally, Quintus Valerius Flaccus – you’ll soon get used to the three-name habit. But more to the point, Marcus/Mike is enjoying his fascinating life as Caesar’s Tribune far too much to want to return to a mundane modern existence.
At the time of the personality swap, the real Marcus was a Tribune, serving with the famous Tenth Legion. The knock on the head left him suffering from total amnesia with respect to his former life, but relatively clear recollection of Mike’s. The fact of this amnesia earned Marcus a reluctant repatriation to Rome, where he was quickly recruited by Julius Caesar to his campaign team for the consular elections for the year 59 BC.
Marcus has discovered that his patron and (to his astonishment) relative, Caesar, is also a man way ahead of his time, although not in the same literal fashion. He is a man with a vision and the willpower, drive, courage and ability to see it through. He is a man with huge machismo, charm and personality, a polymath with a great appetite for both work and play but – to our hero’s great advantage – a man who recognises ability in others and who sees in Marcus the rare ability to ignore popular superstition and see situations for what they are, not as manifestations of the will of the gods or fate – not a tendency encouraged by the Caesar’s right wing opponents of those days.
We are now seven years on from that fateful day in 60 BC and Marcus is back in Italy in the autumn of 54/53 BC on a mission to Pompey
From the Journals of Marcus Rutilius Robura in which we get a taste of what was to come.
hock; instant gut-wrenching terror; subliminal horrors amplified in dreams, and imposed with mind-bending proportions on the realities so twisted and tortured by the brain’s ability to exaggerate the thought patterns tumbling through its contorted corridors during waking hours and reflected in all their convoluted awfulness in sleep – such was the stuff of my nightmares.
I am still not free of the debilitating trauma of those brief, violent encounters with the Parthian Army in far off Mesopotamia, even though months have passed, and I’ve tasted normality once again. It is as if the brain itself has been wounded, and its suppurating sores are seeking attention, demanding relief that is being denied by any deviation from their origins.
I am not alone. Few of us who fled that gore-soaked battlefield have escaped mentally unscathed, even those of us who were fortunate enough to escape injury by those nightmare barrages of steel-tipped arrows from the ubiquitous Parthian archers. For weeks afterwards we walked, talked and worked like zombies, trying to function normally as best we could, still threatened by the probability of pursuit and further defeat at the hands of what seemed then to be an overwhelming power, our confidence in Rome’s insuperability gone forever. Hollow-eyed and gaunt, even the toughest veterans couldn’t shake off the distorting aftermath of fear that haunted our sleeping and our waking hours.
Exhausted after our headlong flight through the desert sands, any sleep that came was scarcely welcome and certainly not refreshing in any meaningful way. None of us was free from the humiliation of waking up, screaming and fighting with our blankets as if the demented spirits of Hades were after us. More than once I found myself being pinned down by one or other of my close team of friends, Xenophon, Scaeva or Drusus – even the ever-faithful Primus, who would then lick any part of me that he could reach in an attempt to calm the fears that even to an animal, were so disturbing. Much later, when lying beside my beloved wife, Sylvia, the comfort was more immediate and effective, but the residue of fear still lasted, at first for hours, only reducing slowly with time.
All of us – particularly those with rank and responsibility – tried in the early days to hide those terrifying manifestations of fear, ashamed of showing weakness in front of our friends and those who depended on our ability to give an example of calm leadership.
The nightmares didn’t hit us immediately. They crept up on most of us only when we started to relax, only when we began to have time to think about what had happened, to try and justify our own emotions and reactions. It was as if they were prompted by guilt.
Not being subject to the superstitions of the age, I knew what was happening to me, although there was little enough I could do about it to ‘heal’ myself. Rationalising the symptoms that were coming close to driving many of my men towards mental breakdown, I knew that we were all suffering from a syndrome well recognised in the life of my alter ego, Mike Oakwood.
But for us there were no pills and potions, no psychiatrists and endless therapy. For us there was only (only?) the close-knit camaraderie of the legions that could and would, with time, bring the healing balm that we so desperately needed. As so often with soldiers, it was not long before the culture of sick humour kicked in to soften the edges:
‘What’s the difference between the noble Crassus and a common fisherman?’
‘One carries a pike on his head, the other carries his head on a pike.’
As soon as men realised that they weren’t alone in their sleeping terror; as soon as it became obvious that nearly everyone was subject to nightmares and even waking dreams that could turn brave men into quaking cowards, the legionaries rallied round and somehow calmed and cajoled each other into a more normal, stable frame of mind.
The fears were never forgotten, never could be. None of us would ever be free of the possibility of their return. But the simple fact was that most of us had seen and survived the horrors of battle before. We had witnessed the horrors of battlefield wounds, amputations, executions: none of it was new to us. None of it could claim the lasting influence on our minds that such horrors can on the minds of men and women today. These hardy men were inured to the sights and sounds of bloodshed in a way that no soldier of today can ever be. Men, women and children of those times were so used to the sight of blood, whether from the day-to-day farmyard scenes of animal slaughter, or the ritual throat-cutting ceremonies of sacrifice, or the deliberate terror of public execution that everyone voluntarily attended.
Not for the first time I have been forced to look beneath the skin of the people amongst whom I now live, breathe and have my being and to recognise a hard layer of insensitivity not present in my erstwhile companions in the twenty-first century.
I have ranged ahead of myself again, way out of time and out of sequence, but I cannot wash those terrible scenes from my mind you will come to them soon enough. They were the result of events still eight months off when I arrived in Rome on my return from Gaul in the aftermath of Caesar’s campaigns in Albion. The events in question were the brief battles that saw the end of Crassus’s dreams to conquer the Parthians.
Where was I, and how did I come to be sweltering in the deserts of Mesopotamia rather than shivering in Gaul or Britain in Julius Caesar’s campaigning army? You may well ask.
Let me take you back to where it all began back to Rome at the end of the year 54 BC. Forgive these preliminary musings, but what was going on in Rome – bad as it was – just couldn’t compare with the real action that was to come in the summer of 53 BC – AUC 699 to my contemporaries.
 Primus, one of the pair of British mastiff-type dogs given to Marcus by Tingetorix, King of SE Cantium: see Albion Ablaze.
 Read the first book in the series, Caesar’s Tribune, for the brief story of how Marcus Rutilius and Mike Oakwood came to swap identities.
 See Albion Ablaze, Book Three of the series, Caesar’s Tribune.
 Ab Urbe Condito – years since the foundation of Rome.