Hadrian's Consolidation - reboot

Ad Viarum, Camp of the I Augusta Ituraerorum sagittarii cohors, North East Iazygeia, May 248

There was a lot of time to do nothing in Ad Viarum’s cohort’s base, and none knew it better than Georgios Sprave, one of the soldiers of the I Augusta Ituraerorum sagittarii, a cohors of infantry attached to the IV Flavia Claudia legion from Arx Cubitus.

Set, as its name implied, at an important crossroad between Arx Cubitus, Arx Anconem and Porolissum, the fortress was almost equidistant from the three cities and formed the linchpin of the local defense : should any barbarian manage to take it, the road to Porolissum and the regional capital of Dacia at Napoca would be wide open for the pillaging.

The place was not as well protected by the Tisia as elsewhere due to its slow meandering ways, easily crossed, and the terrain was rather flat, idea cavalry country. Which made the fact that the I Augusta Ituraerorum sagittarii was an infantry unit even more of a weakness. Initially the cohors and been a contingent of allied archers but it had been transformed into an heavy cohors some seventy five years earlier, doubling its strength with a lot of medium infantry to become a more classical cohors milliaria.

Of course the cohors was not alone or isolated on the border, in fact two more powerful cohors equitata with around 250 horsemen in each were only a day’s walk from the camp, but it still made Ad Viarum painfully exposed to enemy raids.

Usually this was not so much of a problem because the barbarians on the other side of the river were the Cottini, a tribe similar to the Gauls and other Celtic tribes that the empire had so often vanquished. While they did sometime attempts small scale raids they were mainly farmers, and most of their army was made of infantry due to the hilly if not mountainous nature of their territory.

This led to soldiers such as Georgios Sprave having too much time on their hand. But unlike many other Sprave did not spend his free time drinking and shagging the four prostitutes of the inn near the southern gate or the three at the inn next to the bath.

His background was, as implied by his name, unusual : a greek women for mother and a german carpenter for father, he’d received his maternal grandfather’s first name and his father’s name for gentillice. Of course he was not a roman citizen and thus did not have the formal tria nomina, but he had a surname alright : artifex, often with the word insanus added to it. But while he might indeed be a tinkerer he was no mad, at least he did not feel so.

His father had taught him his woodworking skills from a tender age, but a life working wood for a few copper coins did not appeal to the young Georgios who enlisted at 16 for his 20 years of service, the piece of land and, more importantly, his citizenship at the end.

This did not mean he did not keep working wood in his free time. He built what his unit needed, looked for the bows of the unit's eponymous archers, and when he had time he looked at how to improve things.

A few months earlier his commander had brought him a broken manuballista, a small horizontal bow used mainly from horseback for hunting. It threw a larger dart than the conventional arrows shot by bows, and had much more penetrating power as shown by tests on discarded pieces of armour Sprave had been able to get his hands on for the purpose.

But the main problem with the weapon was that they were slow and awkward to reload. So George had made himself a copy of the commander’s restored hunting weapon and had then started doing what he did best, tinkering about with it. By trial and errors he’d built a new system that allowed quicker reload, at the cost of some range and penetration power, but he was still not satisfied.

He’d shown the improvements to his commander, who had been duly impressed and had given him more time to keep improving on his concept, allocating him some funds and some time of the local blacksmith so that he may . This led Sprave to another invention, that of a magazine holding seven bolts ready to fire. Combined with his already improved loading mechanism it made for a fearsome weapon…

But Sprave was not finished, truly he was on a roll for one of the unit’s archer asked him if he could fit such a system to a bow and, low and below, he did ! Calling his improvement the “instant Scythian”, he managed to create a detachable magazine and arrow guide that allowed very fast shooting of seven arrows : four arrows would already be in the air before the first hit the target.

It very soon showed a marked improvement in accuracy for the beginners of the unit, while also markedly increased the overall volume of fire of the unit as a whole. A contubernia of archers using the “instant Scythian” had been able to best all the other in the cohors in a test set up by the commander.

New of Sprave’s inventions had spread to Arx Cubitus and the legion’s tribunus machinatorum had praised the man for his inventiveness, setting him to the task of improving the fortress’ fixed ballistae, which he’d done by designing a magazine for them, although he did not yet find a way to improve the re-cocking process.

All those experimentations were now becoming very important because for once life was not boring at Ad Viarum… A horde of thousand of Scythians had come from the steppe, crashed through the Cottini territories and fallen upon the Empire’s border…


Inspiration for the “instant Scythian” : no modern technology needed !

And yes the name of today's character is a direct wink at this slightly crazy german guy ;)
I've never seen or heard evidence of the polybolos having survived until the roman empire, and even less about its eventual use during the imperial era although the ancient sources are notoriously not very precise when talking about artillery... Still, even on Trajan or Marcus Aurelius' colums the artillery seems, as far as I recall, to be single shot balistae. I also wonder if the bolts shot by a device such as the one of the first video may not have been to weak. Anyway here our tinkerer doesn't know about such contraptions, and not all machinatorum would know about them either, even military machinatorum.
Babylon, Mesopotamia, May 248
Babylon, Mesopotamia, May 248

Publius Albinus Longus had to recognize it, the Parthians had not lost their skills at siege warfare. Since arriving under the walls of Babylon they had managed to dig a siege ditch on the eastern side of the city and to build two pontoon bridges both up and downstream, sending troops to insure the closure of the siege of the city.

Of course the Romans had not stayed inactive, contesting both landings and bridgeheads and sending rafts packed with burning bitumen against the southern bridge, but to no avail.

Still the roman commander was not anxious. He knew that his job was to be the anvil against which the southern force would come and shatter the invades. And while the enemy may have begun digging tunnels they were hampered by the low water table in the area, and the Roman artillery proved superior in range and accuracy to anything the Parthians had brought, and now longer had thanks to the efficiency of the counter fire provided by bracchiae hidden behind the walls and firing at pre-registered sights. The artillery calculation tables designed a few decades earlier were certainly a factor in this accuracy.

Inside the city a plot by some Parthians agents to open a gate had been thwarted and the supply situation was still very good, and the population remained generally quiet. The fact that Publius Albinus Longus also kept many people employed renovating monuments of improving the banks of the rivers also helped to keep the civilians too busy to care about the siege. It also kept spies from catching a certain tunneling project of him as the excavated lands could be thrown on the new banks without arousing suspicion…
Dam all this time i though it was Sassanids who were ruling the empire not parthians ooof lol. Ye parthians werent best at sieges Sassanids however were prutty competent
Still, even on Trajan or Marcus Aurelius' colums the artillery seems, as far as I recall, to be single shot balistae. I also wonder if the bolts shot by a device such as the one of the first video may not have been to weak.
I think its because accuracy, range, mobility, and power were more important than rapid fire in that time and place. I mean any muscle powered repeating firing mechanism will require lightening the load on the cocking mechanism, you might get away with a more powerful one on a city wall with a crankshaft powered by quite a few people in a constant rotation and even then the constant shooting wouldn't be super effective as opposed to a highly powered accurate Ballistae that could possibly take out enemy commanders (or at least their horse).
Near Ad Viarum, North East Iazygeia, May 248
Sorry for the delay, I did not have time at the airport to post this update and was too busy once I landed back in Belgium
I would also like to quote Fronto, Marcus Aurelius's rethoric teacher :

Annum novum faustum tibi et ad omnia, quae recte cupis, prosperum cum tibi tum domino nostro patri tuo et matri et uxori et filiae ceterisque omnibus, quos merito diligis, precor.
Without further ado, the update. Afterward we'll be taking the usual schedule again

Near Ad Viarum, North East Iazygeia, May 248

The I Augusta Ituraerorum sagittarii was drawn up on the battlefield alongside a second infantry cohors milliaria and the infantry of two cohors equitata, the units’ horsemen nowhere yet to be seen in the predawn darkness. Some four thousand men wearing their lorica hamata or, if they were archers, lorica squamata, and carrying their weapons were sitting in three lines in a compact formation barely a mile and a half long although split in the middle. Each line was made of a strength of three centuries, except for the first one which was four centuries wide and strong.

Each century was as near full strength as could be, with ten contubernia -or eighty men- equipped as infantrymen and two tent parties -16 men- of archers, theoretically 3200 of the first and 640 of the second although the real strength was nearer to 80% due to the initial losses and the usual deserters, sick or injured soldiers.

What was more unusual was the composition of this first line : behind a first rank of infantrymen carrying their oval shield, their pilum, the throwing plumbata inside their shield, their gladius and their pugio, the two next ranks were only made of archers equipped with their small round shields strapped to their vanguard, their bows, their “instant Scythian” fixed and loaded, a gladius and a pugio hanging from their belts alongside their full quivers. Another quiver lay at the bowmen’s feet, ready for when the fist one would be empty.

Centurion and optios were going through the ranks, making sure soldiers kept quiet and ate the bread and oignons they had been given before leaving the camp two hours previously. Battle was coming and they would need their strength.

As the sun rose they all heard the sound of a tuba calling in the distance. Instantly the men rose to their feet. The cavalry was coming… The horsemen had been sent to sting a large Scythian group in a predawn attack. Of course the five hundred men had no hope to defeat a force of six thousand, the main raiding group in the invasion force, but they could lead the barbarians into a trap.

Everyone, especially the barbarians, knew that infantry was vulnerable to cavalry charges… So the conditions had been set to force the barbarians to commit to the attack on a terrain of the Empire’s choosing.

Of course it was unusual for battle to be fought by a concentration of auxiliary units without legionary support, but the heavy infantry was too far to intervene and had been sent behind the invaders... The goal for the legionaries was to catch as many barbarians as possible when they reached the border in their retreat, while preventing any further crossing by reinforcements : more steppe warriors could always appear at any time… The legions were also tasked with the rebuilding of the four communications towers the barbarians had burned when invading.

Beside it was thought the legions would not have contributed any significant help : this was not a battle where their artillery, puny cavalry and lesser archer forces would win the day. It was a day were mass of fire and cunning were needed instead of brute force...

The battlefield had been thoroughly prepared : ditches had been dug on both sides of the formation to prevent any easy flanking, and caltrops had been planted both front and back of the line, with clear paths marked by small strips of fabric stuck to the ground. Wooden stakes had also been planted into the ground between the men of the second line in order to give some protection in case the enemy charged into the formation, which was not expected.

The tuba sounded again, closer, and then the men in the first rank of the first line saw them : horsemen riding hard, undoubtedly Romans given their equipment. Behind them, still some distance away, an host of cavalrymen was coming fast…

The tuba of the cohors answered the call from the cavalry. The Romans cavalry rode in formation, by turmae, and seeing their infantry brethren they started to veer toward the gap in the line. They knew of the trap, and knew that the caltrops had been set up so as to leave a passage from the third century on the left to the gap so that they may get through, regroup behind the infantry and defend the rear of the formation.

About two third of those who had set out the previous evening were there, around 800 hundred men and horses, but they had accomplished their mission. Carrying torches they had gone through the undefended and unfortified Scythians camp, setting it on fire and sending part of the large herd of horses in disarray, thoroughly pissing off the 6000 barbarians that had hoped to sleep off their night of debauchery and cruelty to the slave women they had taken.

They still had reacted quickly when attacked, men sometime running almost naked to their horses, other taking somewhat more time so as to have some protection from their foes... Soon a party of three thousand barbarians was on the trail of the fleeing Romans.

Even the sight of the infantry standing in good order in front of them did not discourage the Scythians. They had never heard of infantry not supported by cavalry being able to stand up to their archery, so why should it be different this time ?

Soon they entered the range marked by some stones which had been set in the field and painted for the purpose, but the Romans kept their fire. Then the first Scythians fired their first arrow, leading to the order of “scutum” being sent all over the Roman first line while the order of “sagitarii… nunc !” was given to the archers who started to fire at the rear of the barbarian formation at a frightening rate of fire.

It seemed that only an instant had passed and already more than two thousand roman arrows were in the air, half of them fired by the 130 men of the I Augusta using the “instant Scythians”. Already their magazines were empty, and they unhooked the device from their bows to resume firing more conventionally, the process taking no more than a few seconds.

Authors of old liked to say that the sky darkened from all the arrows fired, and this time they would not have been far from the truth. The rate of fire was stupefying from such a small unit and the arrows, coming down on the rear of the Scythians in plunging fire that pinned men to horses, hurt beasts and masters, broke through clavicles and thighs, brought death and horror to the unprotected barbarians.

In the same time a much lower amount of arrows came from the first ranks of horsemen, sticking into the oval shields of the auxiliaries, punching through the leather of their caligaes and the feet of the men, scratching the Romans’ skin with deadly effect thanks to the poisons in which they were coated, or simply rebounding on the armor of the infantry.

Slowly the Romans shortened the range of their attack, the first rank of archers targeting the front rank of the enemy cavalry while the second rank fired longer ranged shots, the combined attack causing massive losses amongst the barbarians who soon broke off their attack, demoralized.

Of the three thousand who had come to enact punishment of the men who had raided their camp, only half went back to their slower brethren while a further five hundred had died during the night raid. The Roman cavalry, whose horses had had a few minutes of rest, were soon sent to kill any strangler while the second roman line went through the battlefield to seen if any slave or loot could be captured or to give the mercy of a final blow to those too wounded.

Roman losses from the battle were light, only around two hundred men, most of them dead due to the poison on the Scythians’ arrows. Medics ran through the first line but most of the time they could do nothing as the poison had already penetrated into the bloodstream. To those of course one had to add the cavalry lost during the raid, but still the losses were less than five hundred men in total, or around one men in five

A victory had been won. Not the greatest of victories, not the most glorious, but this defeat of the barbarians meant their incursion had reached its furthest point… Beside destroying the nomads was never the goal of the battle, stopping them had been the only purpose and it had been achieved. Of course a large part of the enemy still remained in the province, but the defeat of their main group should lead to their retreat...
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And so our Saturnalia celebration comes to an end. : /

Seriously though thanks for the festivities Heca, looking forward to the exciting conclusion of this war one of these coming Mondays ;)
Great update, good to know you survived the turning of the new year ;-) I liked the plan behind the battle and the opportunity for the auxiliaries to shine.

I did notice some minor things

the real strength was neared 80% with the initial losses and the usual deserters, sick or injured soldiers.
was or neared I suppose

other taking somewhat more time so as not to have some protection from their foes.
Not to have protection? J/K: Seems to me those that stayed longer probably took the time to at least glove themselves to protect from STDs ;-)

but the heavy infantry was too far to intervene had been sent behind the invaders to catch as many of them as possible when they would reach the border in their retreat while preventing any further crossing by reinforcements : steppe warriors could always appear at any time…
“they had been sent” I suppose? It’s also a sentence that’s a tad too long running imho.
Great update, good to know you survived the turning of the new year ;-) I liked the plan behind the battle and the opportunity for the auxiliaries to shine.

I did notice some minor things
Hi, yes my plane came back from Rome in time on the 31st and a train delivered me to the house of some friends who waited for my Italian wine et salumi in order to start the festivities, and another train brought me back home on the 1st :) Now I'm back at work where it is rather slow going, which allowed to to somewhat improve the text based upon your comments, thanks for that !

And so our Saturnalia celebration comes to an end. : /

Seriously though thanks for the festivities Heca, looking forward to the exciting conclusion of this war one of these coming Mondays ;)
Yes we will have some mondays of war yet :)
Babylon, Mesopotamia, June 248
An extra long update to celebrate the new version of the forum

Babylon, Mesopotamia, June 248

They had toiled night and days for close to a month, all in anticipation of this moment. Thousands of men stood in the predawn twilight, at the foot of the dozen mobile siege towers they had built and for which they had prepared the ground, filling in the ditch in front of the wall and preparing new protected firing positions for their artillery which was only brought in position during the final night so as not to give the enemy’s bracchiae the opportunity to smash it like it had done to the previous batch.

In other circumstances they would have had tunnels dug under the city walls to collapse them, but it had proved impossible due to the water table, digging more than two men’s depth caused water to swirl up in the bottom of the pit. So instead of breaching the walls they would have to go on top of them, a more dangerous proposition altogether…

Varham I was anxious. News from the south were not good, the Romans there had been stronger than expected and able to repel the forces he’d sent to destroy or at least hold them back. Another report from the mainland spoke of some kind of raid on the coast, which was more annoying than dangerous, but still showed a surprising level of activity by the enemy, almost forcing him into a reactive posture. No, actually forcing him into one…

Indeed the attack his men were about to launch were nothing but an attempt to accelerate the destruction of the babylonian garrison in order to be able to hit the southern force in strength before any reinforcements arrived from the north…

There at least his plan seemed to be going well, as the Scythians raiding in northern Mesopotamia still clashed with the Roman cavalry in a duel of horsemen trying to outwit each other, although it seemed that the Romans, while inferior in numbers, held their own and massed a strong infantry force in the fortresses guarding the roads to Syria.

A sudden commotion shook the King of Kings from his thoughts. A messenger, still dusty from the road and clearly exhausted. His message must have been important. Beconning with his hand, the Shahanshah entered into his tent, the man following while trying to catch his breath.

Once they were alone, the emperor of Parthia turned to see the man kneel in front of him, as was proper, holding a leather case in his hands. Taking it and unlacing the leather tong that held it closed, he proceeded to extract the sealed tablet, breaking the wax while turning his back to the messenger. None must see his reaction to the news, either good or bad...

His eyes bulged in surprise and shock. Romans in Persepolis ? Impossible ! And the city almost defenseless… Reacting quickly, the emperor took his sword out of his scabbard and noiselessly beheaded the messenger before the man had time to move. This news had to be contained, at least until Babylon was taken…


Atop his command point Publius Albinus Longus looked at the enemy massing for the attack. Thanks to his bispector he could see them with great clarity despite the distance. The Etemenanki temple and its ziggurat offered a good vantage over the city and he had observers equiped by monospectors and bispectors all around the uppermost terrace of the building, observing every enemy movements.

The vast building had even allowed him to use horses inside the city limits : ramps built all around the exterior of the disused temple’s terraces had been built to allows the beast to climb quickly to the top of the building or go down carrying messages, a backup communication system that had the advantage of being more discreet than the flags and tuba signals otherwise used. His engineers had even made sure to provide shadow and large water basins for the animals to rest and hydrate

Most of the enemy was on the eastern side of the city, as was to be expected, but the forces on the western side of the river was not to be discounted and forced Albinus Longus to keep a significant force there, as well as a quick reaction team ready to intervene where needed. In fact he even had five such teams for the city was divided in four zones thanks to the interior walls, to which one had to add the Etemenanki complex which acted as a last redoubt and in which he kept a few hundred men. Adding to that the forces defending the bridges, and he had become somewhat concerned that his men defending the walls might be somewhat stretched and unable to deal with the mass of men seething outside…

To compensate that he of course had his artillery and a number of secret galleries going under the walls where the mobile siege towers were expected to come, and through which he planned to set fire to the engines : courageous men were ready to burst through the ground, coat the underside of the towers with pitch and set them aflame before retreating hastily and collapsing the part of the tunnels jutting from walls, with teams of impressed civilians being ready to backfill the tunnels under the walls themselves with rocks prepared for the purpose.

A great shout from the enemy side of the walls broke through the Roman commander’s thoughts. The attack had begun. Dozens of elephants started to pull on ropes which men had, unseen in the night, deployed around huge pulleys near the walls : staying out of range of Roman archers, they made the giant towers crawl forward toward the fortifications. They were not alone as men pushed carts right behind the towers, progressing forward while protected from all but the most powerful artillery shots. Soaken skins on the roofs and flanks of the contraptions protected them from attempt at setting them on fire.

Moving too slowly for the attackers but too fast for any bracchiae shot, the siege implements progressed steadily. The Parthian engineers had done their calculations right and the towers dominated the walls of the city, and archers set in the crown nest at the top of the towers shot at the defenders. Yet not all was going as planned for the attackers…

While bracchiae were indeed unable to hit the moving towers, they did shot their heavy stones at the ranks of approaching infantry, some projectiles falling right on top of men unable to escape to the side or rolling on the ground and crushing those in their path…

Romans archers set on the walls also shot their arrows while balistae and scorpios shots bolts that sometime went straight through the sides of the machines approaching them, impaling the men inside.

On a signal part of the Parthian cavalry approached the walls, the mounted cavalry showering the defenders under a cloud of arrows, although some were crushed when a siege tower crashed, one of its main supporting spar broken clean by an hit from a gastrophete, the heavy round ball of stone splintering the wood and causing the whole contraption to fall.

Still more than ten of them still progressed toward the wall when suddenly one caught fire at ground level, burning with a rare intensity and preventing the men inside from fleeing, some throwing themselves from the upper floor with the hope not to break anything important… Ten a second and a third tower met with the same fate while the first seemed to fall into a hole which appeared just below it…

Half of the siege towers had been destroyed while none had reached the walls yet. Still, there were too many : while two more would fall prey to the Romans’ traps, four did reach the walls and deployed their bridges, unleashing dozens of armored warriors while a very dense covering fire tried to empty the walls from defenders.

Yet the shahanshah could only watch in horror as the Romans threw a large piece of wood held by chains and which they made to move in such a way that it came sideway against the flank of a tower… After three swings of the contraption it broke a main spar, causing the collapse of the tower as it was full of warriors.

At the same time one other tower, ditched in bitume thrown from the wall, caught fire : soon it would be unusable… But the soldiers jumping on the walking way from the two remaining towers kept fighting and getting reinforced. Soon a section of wall between two towers was in Parthian hands, but not the towers themselves… Worse, the soldiers had no protection from arrows fired from inside the city, there being no parapet on the internal side of the walls… But the wall was not sheer on the inside, a ramp leading inside the city. At its feet the Romans were already massing to repel the invaders, using the arrow fire from the towers to disrupt any formations. It was a race of time, who would be the first to assemble enough men between the Romans and the Parthians ?

Suddenly the sound of drums was heard above the din of battle, recalling the Parthians on their side of the wall. Surprised, angry, defiant, the soldiers did not want to retreat, but then some looked behind and noticed the arrival of a cloud of dust coming from the south… The Romanss relief force had arrived at Babylon !
Just when the Romans are in serious trouble of losing the city the reinforcements arrive the Parthian King better hope he can survive this. And if he does live through this his failure will likely mean his death. Good chapter really enjoy this timeline.
Just when the Romans are in serious trouble of losing the city the reinforcements arrive the Parthian King better hope he can survive this. And if he does live through this his failure will likely mean his death. Good chapter really enjoy this timeline.
The Romans are not in as much trouble as it seems, for while the first eastern city wall is breached, the second one is still there and the Parthians don't have the time to breach it, especially given that there are forces ready to defend it. But the arrival of Roman reinforcements is indeed... less than auspicious... for the Parthian king ;)
Now the only question is: will the Romans be able to resist the urge to follow the footsteps of Alexander and perhaps farther? Something about a group of Legions marching into the Tarim basin to challenge previous Han hegemony tickles me.
I'm not sure Rome has the manpower to press the borders further East. At present they have enough troops to lift the siege of Babylon, have a raiding force burning Persepolis to the ground and have won in Armenia. Elsewhere there is stalemate.

Short of massive reinforcements (1.5 legions are not massive reinforcements) it is unlikely that they can move significantly beyond the current fortified city line. Equally the Parthians have gambled and in the most part lost so the political position of the Shahanshah is going to be extremely weak.

Expect "developments" in the Parthian leadership I would guess.
A new treaty to stop such unfortunate aggressions in future.
I'm not sure Rome has the manpower to press the borders further East. At present they have enough troops to lift the siege of Babylon, have a raiding force burning Persepolis to the ground and have won in Armenia. Elsewhere there is stalemate.
Certainly taking up to the Albis river in Germania would make a shorter border, but the fertile crescent is a breadbasket for an empire that imports grain from Egypt.
#385 (for map of Empire)
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Near Susa, June 248
Near Susa, June 248

The cavalrymen were tired, weary and happy at the same time. Their horses were simply tired, either from carrying the men or from carrying their loot… Each of the three thousand horsemen led three other horses, either remounts or loaded with bags of gold, silver, precious stones, glass vessels in their leather pouches and other luxuries. Some had even made sure to bag stocks of spices and incenses and not a few animals carried such goods.

The treasury of the Parthian kings had been captured almost without a fight, surprise playing in the hands of the Romans. Not only was the Parthian capital lightly protected to start with, but a ruse had also allowed to outwit the garrison, bringing it outside of its walls while a small group of men took control of a city gate.

Once captured, the city had been methodically pillaged, with all the goods centralized in the imperial palace under the control of the legate in charge of the combined force, for fair distribution between the troopers. Outriders were sent to neighboring palaces and villas of the Parthian nobles to pillage them, capturing large amounts of horses of the best breeds, including many of the famed nisean breed. Hundreds of camels had also been captured, taken from the local merchants.

In fact the loot was so huge that there was a lack of leather bags to carry it all. Some had been put in baskets while some men had used every roll of clothe, even some of silk, to carry the products of their rapine.

What had surprisingly not been done in any large amount was raping the women. Too many people lived in the area, and the roman force was too small. The lack of any alcohol beyond palm wine, which most Romans found disgusting, also helped keep the discipline.

Yet there was one more thing to rob from the area, and it was its youth. The amount of beasts captured was so huge that the Romans could not take care of them. On the other hand they did not want to bring grown men that could revolt with them, so it was that every youth between ten and fifteen was taken and enslaved, and put in charge of the animals while being forbidden to mount any.

The going was slow, but they had now reached Susa, unfortunately the city had closed its gates to the Romans. Except that the Romans to which the gates had been closed were not those of the column… A force of three auxiliary cohors and half a legion including a full legionary heavy artillery train was besieging the city !

Soon the legates and praefects in command of the two forces met in the praetorium’s tent in the besiegers’ main camp, each legate bringing his counterpart up to date on the overall campaign under the attentive looks of the praefects in charge of the various auxiliary units. The besieging force was made up of the Egyptian troops which had landed at the southern ports. They had been able to force the Scythian cavalry’s force to engage them : using carroballistae they had been able to disperse the barbarians, who had fled toward the northeast without trying to regroup with their Parthian masters. This had allowed the garrison to move north toward Babylon while detaching the reinforcements toward Susa, which acted as a gate to Mesopotamia for the Parthian army’s logistics and which they knew was the way that the cavalry raid had to come through...