For the Want of a Ram: The World of a Surviving Caesar

Haha, thanks. The funny thing about that is that it was a real Roman delicacy. A lot of the jokes I've made so far are just things from the real world (i.e piss merchants, naked wrestling, etc.). Honestly, it's not too hard to find humor in the ancient world, as they seriously did some weird shit

That's my point! I love it. We take this stuff too seriously. They didn't even take themselves that seriously...
Thanks For the wearing and caesar going full omniman?! Awesome!
Yeah, Caesar was known for his mercy if you were willing to play ball. But if you screwed him over, or just so happened to be a barbarian tribe he didn't like, he could be pretty cruel. He did some pretty insane things up in Gaul. Also, ancient warfare was just all-around brutal, as murdering and enslaving civilians was very much the norm
What month are we up to in the TL? I'd be hoping that Burebista (or at least serious Dacian opposition) manages to hold out at least until winter sets in.
What month are we up to in the TL? I'd be hoping that Burebista (or at least serious Dacian opposition) manages to hold out at least until winter sets in.
I'm pretty sure we are around April/May now. Also, things aren't going to just be a cakewalk for Caesar. Spoiler alert, but the campaign is going to get kinda intense once he crosses the Danube. Also, according my current plans, it's not just going to take one campaign season. That may change though depending on what I end up deciding
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Chapter IV: The Gods are Bastards

Chapter IV: The Gods are Bastards


The Slaughter at Histria
There are many words one could use to describe King Zyraxes: an ingrate, a backstabbing piece of shit… a bastard. Born in the 90s BC, second-in-line to a petty Crobyzi chief, at first it seemed that he’d be destined for a docile life: never to be king, but always to live quite pampered. Everything would change for him however at the age of 7 when his uncle assassinated his father and eldest brother, seizing the throne for himself and forcing the boy into exile. Growing up in Dionysopolis, learning intrigue from Scythian schemers and Pontic poisoners, he’d never forget what his uncle did to him, as in the dark chasm of his soul, he hungered for revenge. And he’d get his wish in 71 BC when the younger Lucullus subjugated the Euxine Greeks in the name of Rome, robbing his uncle of some of his key backers. Eucleus(1), the city’s archon and his most steadfast supporter, was eager for new allies in the interior: ones who’d be more amenable to his interests. So, he’d agree to back the young prince, who regularly tortured small animals, with no strings attached. After years of scavenging on carcasses, the wretched vulture was ready to take flight; chaos was a ladder, and it was now his time to climb.

With a vial of poison and a private goon squad, he’d take out his uncle in a brothel, reclaiming his ancestral hold of Genucla shortly after. And over the coming decade, he’d greatly expand his kingdom’s power, forging alliances and conquering his neighbors through treachery and trickery. And in 61 BC, he’d see a chance to tip the balance of power even more in his favor. One Gaius Antonius Hybridus, Mark Antony’s incompetent buffoon of an uncle, had come to conquer Scythia Minor, seeking wealth and glory. What he’d get out of it however would be nothing of the sort. Assembling a coalition of Greeks, Gets, and Bastarnae, he would absolutely annihilate Hybridus at the battle of Histria. With his Germanic cavalrymen in the wings, the king of the Bastarnae, or the Peucini as some called them, Acrosas I(2), would scatter them to the four corners of the Earth, while he and his ally, Idaeus of Histria(3), gave chase. Later that night, they’d celebrate their triumph around a campfire, parading around their captured vexilla like King Dromichaetes before (4). Taking a big swig from his amphora, Zyraxes would announce a toast to the free peoples of Scythia Minor, gesturing towards Idaeus and Acrosas. He acclaimed them as heroes of a new age: a statement to which they'd respond with thunderous applause… if only they knew he’d have them beheaded 5 years later.

When Burebista came a-knocking with his swarm of 100,000 men, Zyraxes immediately knew which side he was on. And in a shameless act worthy of an Oedipian tragedy, he would invite his friends to “strategize,” only to have them executed right there on the spot. He’d then help Burebista destroy Histria, reducing it to a pile of ash, and wage a genocidal war against the Bastarnae, wiping their villages off the map. When the dust had settled, these peoples would never forget what Zyraxes did to them. And by the time 44 BC rolled around, they were out for blood. When the Hellenes burst out into revolution, the king desperately tried to put a lid on it, conscripting men from their farms. Desperate for manpower, he’d impress the Bastarnae especially hard, and for their new king Deldo(5), this was a step too far. A war-hardened mix of Celto-Germanic blood, his people weren’t called the “bastards” for nothing, and they’d live up to their name by finally revolting, declaring an end to all foreign domination. Before he knew it, Zyraxes was suddenly dealing with supply issues, with his silos torched and fields scorched. In his personal chamber, he’d beat one of his dogs to death in a fit of rage, nicely “asking” a servant when his reinforcements, and much needed supplies, would come; the walls were closing in. Chaos may be a ladder, but Zyraxes was approaching its last rung.


Caesar Battles the Bastarnae

Seeing another potential foreign policy coup in his midst, Caesar would send an envoy to the Bastarnae, hoping to negotiate, only to be met back with a head in a box. They were in no mood for peace; the time for war had come. Cursing at the heavens, Caesar would march on their capital: an island a few miles east of Tirizis(6). He’d be disappointed to discover though that it had been completely abandoned. In a ramshackle shrine dedicated to their primeval god, Hesus, he’d discover a large mushroom with the phrase “come find me” etched in blood(7). And, behind an altar to the horned deity, was his envoy’s headless corpse: mangled beyond recognition. It was then that his scouts returned and pieced together what had happened. Deldo had fled to the woods to wage a guerilla war on wheels, and he was going to do everything in his power to make their lives a living hell. Now, seriously concerned about his supply lines, Caesar would hatch up a plan. The bulk of his legions would march west to siege down Zyraxes’s main forts, Capidava and Genucla, methodically building wooden castrum as they go. That way, they’d be able to protect their baggage trains and incoming Greek grain(8). Meanwhile, Caesar would break off at the head of an extremely light, mobile force in order to outmaneuver the Bastarnae, hoping to annihilate them for their arrogance. And if, in the worst case scenario, Burebista’s reinforcements finally arrived, they’d all regroup and act accordingly, so under the cover of nightfall, the armies would depart.

In a stroke of military genius, Caesar would end up doing what Caesar does best and turn the Bastarnae’s own tactics against them. See, Deldo’s armies weren’t as mobile as they seemed, as their baggage trains and civilians slowed them down, and Caesar would fully exploit this fact. First off, using his swift Numidian cavalry, he’d maraud their supply convoys, so that the enemy would intentionally starve. Then, he’d massacre their civilians, as women, children, and the elderly were all gruesomely killed without discrimination. This was done intentionally to cleave off portions of Deldo’s army, as small bands would run into the woods in order to defend their loved ones, only to be ambushed and picked off with ruthless efficiency. Finally, chunks of the woods would be strategically lit on fire in order to restrict Deldo’s movement and burn his men alive(9). And after about two weeks of mortifying war crimes that drenched the forests in blood, his strategy had worked to great success, as though he had taken some casualties, he had whittled down Deldo’s force significantly, forcing him to flee north to seek refuge on a small isle in the Sacred Mouth(10). After mucking about in a murky, mosquito-infested swamp, Caesar wrote another chapter in his incipient “Commentary on the Dacian War,” before readying himself for an engagement that’d live on in both fame and infamy: the “battle” of Peuce Island.


The Fate of Peuce Island

Three centuries prior, his hero, Alexander the Great, had cornered his Thracian foes, the Triballi, here under similar circumstances. Due to the island’s strong currents and steep cliffs however, he’d be unable to make them budge, forcing him to walk away in defeat. Caesar was determined however not to make the same mistake, as he had a near-manic obsession with outshining his idol. With the help of a brilliant young centurion named Marcus Vipsanian Aggripa, he’d conjure up an unorthodox scheme to bring the barbarians to their knees. Using coal and charcoal, he’d equip his Cretan archers with fire arrows, positioning them to attack the oak groves that dotted the isle’s shore(11). Within moments, they’d catch on fire, which would soon spread throughout the heavily forested isle. Its main settlement, a wooden shantytown, would stand no chance against the oncoming inferno. The townsfolk would attempt to drown it out, only to suffocate on the spot, with arrow fire drowning out their screams. Deldo and the survivors would barely escape with their lives, crossing over a narrow strait with 3rd degree burns. And once they washed up on shore, they’d be surrounded by infantrymen and forced to surrender.

Deldo and his fellow chiefs were to be carted off to Rome for a future triumph. And, as a show of mercy, the rest of the survivors were to be sold into slavery, rather than be executed outright(12). Caesar was ecstatic, as he’d order his scribes to commemorate the occasion. His men were in good spirits as well, as they broke out into a celebratory war chant, only for their joy to turn to horror when their general collapsed on the floor: squirming in a convulsive fit. The army would move inland, and he’d be rushed to his personal physician: Antisitius(13). After having his humors “balanced” by some nearby pond leeches and drinking some strange concoction from the east, the shaking would stop, and he’d awake in a couple of hours in perfectly good health. He was a bit frazzled, but due to his famous luck, and being carried away from the carbon monoxide that triggered his epileptic seizure, he came out fine. He’d request an immediate update on how things were transpiring further west, and by Jupiter's balls, the war was just about to get a whole lot bloodier.

(1): A name pulled from a coin from the area, often paired with that of Acrosas.
(2): A real guy, coming from Bastarnae coins. Also, they were called the Peucini because they mostly lived around Peuce Island.
(3): Fictional
(4): A Getic king who captured the diadochi king, Lysimachus, and held him for ransom. It was considered a major humiliation in the "civilized" world.
(5): According to Cassius Dio, the man who the younger Crassus would fight historically in 29 BC. In OTL, he'd slay him in hand-to-hand combat, winning great honors.
(6): Durankulak Island, Bulgaria. There's a huge archaeological site there dating back to the neolithic. According to coins and evidence, it's likely this was the Bastarnae capital.
(7): As goofy and weird as this may sound, this is actually based on real life. According to Cassius Dio, during his Dacian wars, Trajan received a message engraved on a mushroom from a local tribe, warning of his demise. The "engraved in blood" part is just embellishment on my part because why not. Also, Hesus is a Celtic God.
(8): This was Trajan's OTL strategy when he crossed the Danube, as he favored a gradual, methodical approach to protect his supplies.
(9): All of this is directly pulled from the younger Crassus and the strategy he used to defeat them in OTL. Also, burning forests was a fairly common strategy used by the Romans in the Dacian Wars.
(10): Part of the ancient Danube Delta. Strabo recorded it as having various mouths.
(11): Also something the Romans would do in OTL, using fire arrows and spears. There were a bunch found in Dura Europa.
(12): Yeah so, quick reminder, the ancient world was seriously brutal. By our modern standards, this type of logic is psychotic.
(13): Fun fact, the guy who did his autopsy after his assassination. It was likely that he was his personal doctor.
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Ok, so 4 is up. I'll probably go ahead and edit it some in morning. If you guys have any criticisms or if anything seems implausible, I'm always down to make changes
I think that this is first TL where assassination was avoided due food poisoning.
Mine had wine poisoning so idk if it counts
Then again in his Caesar actually gets to do stuff after his survival from shoving a whole ram down his throat, in mine he just turned into a vegetable
Hey everyone, so the next chapter is on its way, hopefully with less genocide and animal cruelty this time around (I'm so sorry). To the people in the comments who are ancient history buffs, I just wanted to ask, for flavor, if there are any big Roman historical figures that'd be serving with him on this campaign. I decided introduce Agrippa, because he'll be important later, but I feel like it'd be fun to focus on more of the Roman characters, since I've mostly been making up backstories for obscure Balkan kings


As a few possibilities:

Publius Ventidius Bassus was a really interesting figure and probably one of the best generals of the era. (IOTL he was the first Roman to win a triumph against the Parthians.) Bret Devereaux did a pretty good run down on his OTL career.

Ventidius would have been one of Caesar's top generals on the campaign (at least at the start as he was stationed in Macedonia in 44 BC), though Caesar seemed to have him slated to be a praetor in 43 BC which would require him to return to Rome.

Publius Vatinius is another interesting figure that is likely to accompany Caesar. IOTL he did some great work for Caesar during the Civil War driving the Pompeian forces out of Illyricum but by 43 BC he seems to have been hated by his troops as they defected to Marcus Junius Brutus pretty much without a fight when Brutus advanced into Illyricum to claim the province from him.

Marcus Licinius Crassus, the grandson of the Triumvir, could be interesting for the viewpoint of a junior officer on the campaign. (We don't know when Crassus was born precisely but given that IOTL he was appointed to the consulship in 30 BC, he would probably have been in his mid to late 20s at this time.) Crassus seems to have been personally brave and a good fighter (IOTL he is credited with having killed a Bastarnae king in single combat during one of his campaigns) and would likely have a score to settle with the Parthians given what they did to his grandfather and uncle.

Publius Cornelius Dolabella is Caesar's replacement as consul in Rome for 44 BC but was slated to be the governor of Syria for 43 BC, so he would likely have some involvement in the Parthian Campaign. Dolabella was a complete wolfshead, utterly shameless and with no loyalty to anyone but himself, but Caesar seems to have liked him.
As a few possibilities:
Thanks for the suggestions. I'm probably going to be doing a chapter on Bassus soon, as he's fighting out in the west. I decided to do the one I'm writing right now from the perspective of this guy who's a 20 year old serving in the legion. Later, he'd be super prominent during the OTL Augustan era, so I thought it'd be a unique direction to take. At the rate that I'm writing, I should be done with it tomorrow night
Chapter V: A Cut Most Unkind

Chapter V: A Cut Most Unkind


The Sight Outside Corvinus's Fort
A man always more attune to poetry than to fighting, Marcus Messalla Corvinus(1) had never wanted to fight this damn war. The scion of one Messalla Niger, a former consul, and a long, patrician line stretching back generations, his family had forced him into the affair, wanting to start his climb up the Cursus Honorum. Holed up in a decrepit, cramped castra, where the air stank of rotting wood and feces, he’d write a letter to his schoolmate Horace(2), complaining about his situation. For the past week or so, his legion, the fighting 10th, had been absolutely hammered by Bastarnae raids, taking heavy losses. And though their earthworks had somewhat mitigated the disaster, the experience had still been quite traumatic. In iambic pentameter, he’d lament the loss of his young comrades: cut down in the prime of their youth. And being a staunch Republican and Cicero fan, he’d also write a scathing criticism of Caesar, calling him effeminate and a Bithynian fucktoy(3): treasonous views that he'd only express in private. Publicly however, he’d keep up appearances, and after passing on his papyrus, he’d be one of the first to report to his centurion. A gruff veteran of the morbid marshes of Egypt, he’d announce that they’d be packing up to help capture nearby Capidava(4). One of the two main strongholds underpinning Dacian rule in the region, its starving garrison had sallied forth in an act of vainglorious desperation. The legions there needed extra men to help plug the gaps, and due to the Bastarnae raids having largely ceased, the 10th was no longer needed here. Corvinus could seriously use the change in change in scenery; afterall, the mighty Pericles didn’t win glory by wading through barbarian blood and shit. Packing up his inkwell and shortsword, he’d trek through the Scythia Minor mud, and gazing up at the starry sky, he prayed to Apollo that he’d come out this hell in one piece.

And come out of it he did, though the going undoubtedly got rough. Capidava was, by no means, an easy siege. Ruled by the petty king Dapyx(5), it’d do everything in its power to resist. Though devastated by the Bastarnae’s scorched earth campaign, they’d shunt their civilian population off to a cave called Ciris in order to conserve grain. And its garrison would even resort to eating grass cakes and alleycats just to survive. They’d hold out far longer than they expected, but inevitably, the hunger set it. And deciding that they didn’t want to dishonorably starve, after a week, they’d sally forth. For a force of mostly malnourished, untested militiamen, they’d inflict a respectable amount of casualties, killing legionaries with their famed archers and falxes. In the end however, discipline and numbers would win the Romans the day, as in-lockstep, they’d break into the city. Dapx, being a stubborn idealist, would rather die than submit himself to Roman rule, so he and his brother, Diengis, along with a bunch of their men, would kill themselves by consuming the roots of the hemlock weed(6). And Corvinus, being one of the men to storm their palace, would visibly gawk at the sight. After writing to Horace some more about the incident, he’d help bury the dead and attend to the affairs of camp. And, later that night, he and a platoon of horsemen would ride to cavernous Ciris. Purported to be the Titans’ refuge when they battled against the gods, they’d have to go through the arduous hell of locating all its entrances. Then, they’d block them all off with boulders, and within a matter of days, everyone who had retreated there would either suffocate or starve(7). Going mad from constantly being on corpse duty, Corvinus begged for an end to the carnage, as he just wanted to fuck off and write poetry. His hopes would be dashed however when he received word that he was to be redeployed up to Genucla(8). And by some damnable act of Hecate, it’d be a tougher nut to crack than he thought.

Jolting from bed, adjusting his wig so that his men couldn’t see his bald spot, Caesar announced to the world that he was in perfectly good health. In his own words, his “fall” was of minor concern, and from fighting barbarians, he was now at peak physical health. His men rejoiced as, in a show of strength, he gallivanted atop his Germanic horse. Conveniently sweeping the whole “casualties” part under the rug, he bore the good news of the Capidava’s fall, and announced that it was time to reclaim the lost vexilla being held at Genucla. With a mighty “hoorah,” they’d depart, soon surrounding the citadel. An island fortress encased by wood and mortar walls, when Caesar arrived, it had so far been under siege for a little over 3 weeks, as it absolutely refused to budge. In a mix of callousness and cruelty, Zyraxes had his peoples’ remaining farms sacked off every morsel, allowing him to stockpile grain in spite of the Bastarnae. But supplies were still limited, and with the legions arriving soon, he could only hold out so long, so he conjured up a plan to save his own skin.


Young Octavius is Rewarded the Civic Crown

By the time Caesar looked out on Zyraxes's castle in the distance, it was already June; the campaign season would only last a couple more months. The siege was stretching out far too long, so he’d use a strategy unprecedented in the ancient world to finally capture it: a combined, land-sea assault. Pulling a page from his campaign against the Veneti(9), he ordered the construction of a makeshift fleet to surround it. Equipped with battering rams and artillery, they’d sap at the stronghold’s strength until Caesar ordered a full-frontal assault. Using an earthen causeway and makeshift ramparts, the legions would scale its walls, slaughtering all who stood in their wake. And during the ensuing fight, young Octavius would distinguish himself, as due to his quick thinking, he saved his best friend Agrippa's life along with the rest of his troop. And as the last of the defenders surrendered, the young centurion would regale Caesar of the tale. Now, the general wasn’t entirely sure if this was true, as his grand-nephew never struck him as the tactical-type, but at the end of the day, he didn’t care. He had taken quite a liking to the boy, and in their time serving together, he had proven himself to be a worthy heir. So, in an act reminiscent of Mytilene, he’d award Octavius with the civic crown, one of the highest honors a Roman could receive, for all his men to see(10). The crowd erupted into cheers, as his name was shouted on high. Their mood would be dampened however when Zyraxes and the standards were reported nowhere to be found(11). Being the craven that he was, he had slipped out before the siege had even started, fleeing across the river to the city of Sucidava(12). Caesar was understandably pissed, as there was nothing he despised more than a coward, but he thanked his lucky stars that Burebista’s reinforcements had never arrived. The first leg of the campaign had certainly been easier without them, but in the back of his head, he could only wonder; what had ever happened to them?

By the time Burillus and Scorilo had emerged from the Iron Gates, they had received better intel on the situation in Scythia Minor, and it wasn't reassuring. Having alienated almost every one of his subjects, burning through whatever men or supplies he had, Zyraxes had effectively destroyed his realm through his own incompetence. Seeing the situation as one that couldn’t be salvaged, the brothers would change tactics, instead diverting their forces to a front that could actually be won: helping their allies, the Celegeri. As will soon be discussed, Ventidius Bassus had been off fighting Illyrian tribes in the west, and being the latest target of his onslaught, they were in desperate need of help. So, the brothers would intervene to mixed-success, where they’d even manage to inflict a defeat on the wily general. Never one to take failure lightly however, the mule-driver(13) would lick his wounds and fight back, eventually forcing them back across the Danube. Discouraged, though not defeated, the brothers would regroup and recoup their losses, moving to Sucidava where they expected Caesar to make his next attack. There, they’d pay Zyraxes a visit who had been staying as their “guest of honor”.


The Brothers Arrive at Sucidava

As Zyraxes gorged his face with apricots, he couldn’t help but smile, knowing that the king’s sons were here. For ages, he had been asking Burebista for help, and it was great to know it had finally arrived. Two tall, hulking men, bedecked in leather with auburn hair, they’d throw off their caps and each shake his hand. Their host Daizus(14), the lord of the Suci, was holding a feast tonight to celebrate their arrival. Starving from the long march, they’d dig in, telling tall tales over a suckled boar that served as centerpiece. It was a joyous night, all things considered, but Zyraxes couldn’t help but feel that something felt… off. The entire time, the brothers exchanged strange glances, whispering in Daizus’s ear. Not thinking much of it, he’d soon retire to his chambers. In the days before Burebista, he normally would’ve poured himself a glass of wine, but ever since he cut down all the vines(15), he’d drink water instead before bed. Dozing off, he couldn’t help but feel excited over what the next day would bring. Perhaps he could “play” with another rat and try to make it sing. This would all be interrupted when he heard a loud thump at his door. Before he could even respond, a band of guardsmen would burst in, armed to the teeth with longswords. He’d be dragged, kicking and screaming, from his bed, shouting all sorts of profanities. And in a secluded courtyard, he’d be stabbed 57 times with his eyes being gouged out from his head. The spider king's karma had finally caught up with him.

See, Burebista had about had it with his viceroy’s gross incompetence. His wanton cruelty had lost him Scythia Minor: a prosperous prize he was never going to get back. And once rumors started swirling of an abortive assassination plot, one targeted against him and his family, he immediately blamed Zyraxes, coming to the conclusion that he needed to go. So, he had his sons kill him, with the man dying like the animals he so cruelly tortured. In a mossy hut, Burebista would breathe a sigh of relief when he received word that the monster was dead. He felt much safer now, knowing his life was no longer under threat. Nothing could allay his fears however when received word of what was happening in the south. Caesar was marching on the village of Oescus in order to cross the Danube. And his lieutenant, Bassus, had finally finished his campaign in the west. Offering a sacrifice to Zalmoxis, Burebista prepared for the campaign that could decide his entire kingdom's fate. Just recently, his high priest, Decaeneus(16), had predicted a great victory for the “long-haired children of the cosmos,” and considering that the word for his subjects, the comati, meant exactly that, he could only hope he was right…

(1): This guy would rise to prominence under Augustus in OTL, sponsoring a bunch of poets and serving in the field. Later, the Hunyadi family in Hungary would declare descent from this guy because Eastern Europe is weird.
(2): Yep, that Horace. The one you fell asleep to reading in Latin class.
(3): A common insult for Caesar was the Bithynian queen, as he was purported to have been bottomed by their king.
(4): Near a village also called Capidava, Romania.
(5): Crassus would fight this guy historically in 29 BC.
(6): According to Cassius Dio, the mass suicide is OTL, thought without the hemlock. Also, he did have a brother, though his real name is never mentioned.
(7): According to Cassius Dio, this is OTL as well.
(8): A big Getic fort located somewhere around the Danube Delta, possibly Isaccea.
(9): A seafaring tribe he fought in Brittany whose navy he crushed.
(10): In OTL, Caesar received a civic crown at the age of 20 for saving a man's life on Mylitene. Considering that Octavius is roughly the same age, he decides that it would be a good idea to give him the same.
(11): This is similar to what happened in OTL, except he left the standards at the fort. Here, he takes them.
(12): Corabia, Romania
(13): His nickname he got from supplying the Roman army mules. Also, he was thought to be a bumpkin, which people made fun of.
(14): Fictional
(15): According to Strabo, due to being super religious, Burebista banned wine in Dacia, destroying the vines.
(16): As per Strabo, Burebista's high priest, astrologer, and resident wizard.
(17): The lower classes of Dacia were called the comati: long haired. The nobles were the tarabostes: cap-wearers, referring to their aristocratic hats.
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Ok everyone, so chapter 6 is coming, probably in a day or two. I’ve just been a bit busy lately with school. It’ll be focusing on Bassus and his campaign in the west. Then, the next one will be Caesar crossing the Danube and all the chaos that follows
Chapter VI: Look to the West

Chapter VI: Look to the West


The Highlands of Upper Paeonia
While Caesar was off conquering the storm-torn Black Sea coast, Publius Ventidius Bassus hadn’t made himself idle. Long derided by the Patricians as a Picenian hick, he had clawed his way to power through his own initiative and merit, going from a used mule salesman to a field commander in just the span of a decade. Whether it be because of his sardonic bluntness, knack for strategic improvisation, or their shared background as lowly street wretches, Caesar absolutely loved him, rewarding him with increasingly prestigious assignments throughout the Civil War. By the time Munda rolled around, he had already served out a term as tribune of the plebs, and despite his detractors decrying him as an unwashed ass-fucker, he was well on his way to becoming consul. So, when he received his commission to bash the barbarians in the west, he simply smiled, donned his lamellar army, and quipped: “Finally! No more Roman killing; I get to fight with my own kind”. Bassus wasn’t going to let Caesar down, even if he died trying.

Sexed out and lightly hungover from his brief soiree in Thessalonica, the general’s first stop would be rugged Paeonia: the home of the Dentheleti. Longtime Roman allies, they too had been subject to increasingly bold Dacian raids: just like their neighbors, the Astae. In one of these skirmishes, their king, Sitas I, had been blinded by arrow fire(1). And, wanting back both his eyes and revenge, he’d agree to pledge his loyalty to Caesar, supplying Bassus with a bevy of men, including a unit of world-renowned Agrianes: shock troops famously used by Alexander. After a ritual where the king drank semen to symbolize Zis and Bendis’s divine marriage, where female snake handlers played the lute in the background(2), that Bassus thought to be quite disgusting, they’d be off, entering a strange land called Segetica.

There, Bassus would do battle against his first opponents: the Serdi and Maedi. Wild, warlike peoples, they both allied with Mithridates during his rampage across the Balkans, looting as far as Delphi and Pella. Angered by this grave injustice, Sulla would ransack their lands as payback. So when Burebista came down, it’d be no surprise that they pledged their loyalty. Afterall, his protection gave them a convenient excuse to raid Macedonia once more; but Bassus wouldn't have it. Speeding through the verdant wood, he’d lure them to the slopes of Mt. Orbelus(3) where he’d absolutely demolish their combined army. He’d then besiege their respective capitals of Serdica and Iamphorina(4). And after grinding things out, he’d put their populations to the sword, even recovering lost Delphic treasures that had been untouched by Sulla. After parading around a life-sized, 24 karat dolphin statue on the streets of a burning city, drunkenly shouting lines from the Odyssey, he’d pivot northwest to deal with the dastardly Dardani.


Bassus fights the Dardani

A dual kingdom formed of two fraternal tribes, the Thunatae and Galabri, they had long had a love-hate relationship with Rome. Like the Maedi, they had also sided with Mithridates, raiding to their hearts’ content until Sulla put an end to that. They’d spend the next couple of decades as a Roman protectorate until the rise of Burebista and Caesar’s march on the Senate: an opportunity they’d take advantage of to once more become independent. Brandishing their axes, they had grown fat off of Macedonian raids, so Bassus saw it as his right to put an end to their gluttony. At first, he’d play good cop, trying to reaffirm their loyalty, only to be met back with a familiar sight: a head in a box. So, he descended on their land like a plague of locusts. Moving with great gusto, he’d wage a brutal campaign of scorched earth, felling their crops and burning every one of their villages. With their infrastructure in tatters, their kingdom would collapse into anarchy. And after a pitched battle near their capital, Scupi, where he even manage to slay their king, Monunius III(5), in hand-to hand combat, earning him the spolia optima and a fancy new cognomen, he'd put them out of their misery. They’d surrender around mid May, allowing him to open a new front up north against the legendary Triballi.

Much to Bassus’s surprise however, they’d simply surrender, allowing him to move on to their capital, Ratiaria(5), unopposed. They were a power long past their prime, as they had gone from a juggernaut feared by the Argeads themselves to a weak, feckless rump, hemmed in by the River Ciabrus(6). They had tried to resist Burebista, only to be further chastened, and their king was in no mood to see the same thing happen again. After a peace ceremony atop the slopes of their sacred hill, Temenites(7), dedicated to the matriarch Cybele, where his colleague, Publius Vatinius, gave him the death stare for not taking it seriously, Bassus carried on through the wisened pines. He was ready for the last leg of the campaign: a mobile pincer attack to subdue the Celegeri. He expected it to be easy, as they were weak and emaciated, but when Burillus and Scorilo arrived on the scene, he’d quickly change his mind.

The Celegeri were the successors of a mighty empire that had once straddled the entire Balkans: the imperial Scordisci. An entity of mixed, Celto-Illyric heritage, at its height, it had ruled all the way from Pannonia to Macedon, striking fear into the hearts of men. Due to a combination of disastrous external wars, internal strife, and Roman expansionism however, their empire would shatter into various successors. The Celegeri, also known as the lesser Scordisci, bordered the Margus River to the west(8), and being one of the weakest of the brood, they fell fast to Burebista’s warpath. They’d come to greatly resent their overlords, desperately wanting to break free, but when the brothers came along, offering their reinforcements, they’d accept without a moment’s notice. For, while they despised Dacia with a passion, they had had a hatred for the Romans that ran deeper than blood, meaning that they were perfectly willing to bite the bullet if it meant expelling them from their lands.


The Aftermath of the Ager Margi

After linking with their vassals at a rapacious Danube ford, the brothers would get to work, using their Scythian cavalry to harass, ensnare, and inflict attrition upon their Roman opponents. Now, Bassus was no fool, as simply fought fire with fire, purging entire villages and ambushing their baggage trains. Eventually however, due to a fatal split second error, he’d find his forces pinned down in a clearing where he’d be forced to fight the Dacians on unfavorable terrain. Initially, tactical disadvantages notwithstanding, it actually seemed like he would win, as his flanks held well under fire. But in a moment of arrogance, his commander, the inept Domitius Calvinus(9), would attempt a cavalry charge that cost him both his life and Bassus the battle. Not wanting this fiasco to go from a Gergovia to a reverse Alesia, he’d order a strategic retreat in order to mitigate the damage. And by the time he had fled to the woods, he’d gain a clearer picture of what had happened. Namely, while the battle of the Ager Margi was a humiliating failure, it wasn’t crushing, as though he lost some of his best calvary, he still managed to come out with most of his troops intact.

After writing his report to Caesar, blunt though mildly propagandized, he’d spend some time avoiding the Dacians in order to lick his wounds, plugging his gaps with native auxiliaries. Eventually, after a few weeks, his force would recover their strength, and by the later part of May, he’d be hammering the Dacians. See, after their decisive victory, the brothers had grown complacent, letting up their raids, which left their armies more vulnerable. And once the general realized this, he’d refuse to let up, kicking the brothers in their shins like a caged ass. Eventually, he’d ambush them near a reed-filled grove, this time on his own terms. And after a major thunderstorm completely mortified his superstitious foe(10), they’d break for the hills, fleeing towards the Danube. The Celegeri front was no longer tenable, so the brothers retreated to Sucidava. Much to Vatinius’s annoyance, Bassus would celebrate by getting drunk atop a mule, slyly noting that, after his defeat, he was now truly equal to Caesar (11). There was still much to be done however, as remnants of the Celegeri and Dardani remained at large. Caesar however needed him, as he was preparing to cross into Dacia, so Bassus would leave behind 3 legions to garrison the entirety of conquered Moesia. Normally not the superstitious type, the man couldn’t help but notice strange omens as he approached Oescus: birds dying, trees rotting, and the skies acting utterly bizarre. To soothe the fears of his men, he’d sacrifice a heifer to Jupiter Optimus, and as he stared down at its combusting carcass, he could only hope that he didn’t end up just like it: with his ass burning on a pike.

(1): As per Cassius Dio, real guy who was actually blind, though I made up the explanation.
(2): This is referencing the Thracian snake goddess Bendis, to whom fertility rituals were practiced. Also, if this sounds disgusting, I'm pretty sure that the ancient Egyptians had a ceremony that was super similar.
(3): Right on the border of OTL Greece and Bulgaria.
(4): Sophia and Vranya, Bulgaria respectively
(5): Fictional. Also, the younger Crassus got this in OTL when he fought in the region against the Bastarnae. Here, Bassus gets it, but for slightly different reasons.
(6): Archar, Bulgaria
(7): The Tsibritsa River
(8): Miroč Mountain, Serbia
(9): The Greater Morava River
(10): A former consul who lost pretty badly against Pontus, forcing Caesar to step in. If you're wondering why he's on this campaign, Caesar decided to keep him around, still giving him military commands. Bassus however got over-confidant and made the mistake of trusting him way too much.
(11): As per Cassius Dio, a real thing that happened during the Dacians Wars at the OTL Battle of Tapae.
(12): A reference to Caesar getting defeated at Gergovia. Now, they're both no longer undefeated.
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