The World of A Dragon among the Eagles – Part II – The Imperial Roman Legion

The World of A Dragon among the Eagles

The world in which A Dragon among the Eagles takes place, and with which the main characters are concerned, is also the world of the Roman legion.

Indeed, the imperial Roman legion figures largely in the entire Eagles and Dragon series, and so, I thought it good to do a brief introduction of the make-up of the legion at the time the book begins in A.D. 197.

Roman legionaries on Trajan's column

Roman legionaries on Trajan’s column

At this time in the history of the Roman Empire, the Roman legion is a well-oiled machine. It, and its troops, had been perfected after centuries of warfare, of trial and error, victory and defeat.

This army, the army of the Principate, is quite different from that of the Republic. It used to be that Roman legionaries were required to meet minimum requirements of possession and wealth in order to qualify for service in the ranks.

Republican Roman troops (illustration by Angus McBride)

Republican Roman troops (illustration by Angus McBride)

This all changed in 107 B.C when Caius Marius was elected consul and sent to Numidia to continue the war there. However, Marius was denied the right to raise new legions in Africa, permitted only to take volunteers with him.

Of course, Marius took advantage of this, and in a move no other had taken, he appealed to the poorest classes of citizens who became known as the capite censi.

These ‘head count’ citizens were enthusiastic about joining the legions and the new opportunity for a livelihood that it presented them with. They became the backbone of the Roman Legion, and from that time onward the link between military service and property was done away with. They need only have been citizens.

Gaius Marius among the ruins of Carthage (Joseph Verner 18th century)

Gaius Marius among the ruins of Carthage (Joseph Verner 18th century)

Marius made many reforms to the Roman army which I won’t go into here, however, his move contributed to the creation of a permanent, full-time citizen army, a self-sufficient fighting force of well-trained men with standard-issue equipment, food and lodging. They carried everything they needed on the march on their own backs, including weapons, spikes for palisades, pots, pans, and pick-axes for digging fortifications.

Marius' Mules - Re-enactors maching in full kit

Marius’ Mules – Re-enactors marching in full kit

Because of all the kit they carried in the field, they became known as ‘Marius’ Mules’.

The average kit for a rank-and-file soldier in the imperial legions included hobnail sandals known as caligae, a standard tunic, a leather belt or cingulum, a lorica segmentata which was a breast plate made up of individual iron strips, a helmet, cloak, gladius (short sword), pugio (dagger), a pilum (javelin), and a scutum (shield).

Re-enactor in Roman Legionary outfit

Re-enactor in Roman Legionary outfit

In A Dragon among the Eagles, there is mention of the various ranks and units that make up the legion, so I think it a good idea to cover the basics now.

The smallest unit of men in the imperial legion was a contubernium which consisted of eight men who shared a tent, or barrack room. These men marched, fought, lived, and cooked together.

Then there was the century. This is probably the most well-known unit of men. It consisted of 10 contubernia, and was run by a centurion with a standard bearer and an optio beneath him.

The centurion was usually a career soldier, and a harsh task-master. He wore different armour that was chain mail, usually with a harness decorated with phalerae, decorative discs that represented awards he had been given. The crest of a centurion’s helmet was horizontal, and he carried a short wooden staff called a vinerod, which gave him the right to strike his citizen soldiers in the interests of discipline.

Re-enactor dressed as a Centurion (Wikimedia Commons)

Re-enactor dressed as a Centurion (Wikimedia Commons)

There are stories about a particular centurion in the imperial legions whose nick-name was ‘give me another’ because he was constantly breaking his vinerod over the backs of his men!

Centuries of eighty men were the most flexible military units in the legion. They numbered enough to go on patrol, or building duty, and could manoeuvre effectively in battle.

Now, the next unit of the legion was the cohort.

The imperial cohort was made up of 480 men, and consisted of six centuries let by an Equestrian tribune. The first cohort of a legion, however, was led by a Patrician tribune.

Officers of the Imperial Roman Legions (illustration by Ron Embleton)

Officers of the Imperial Roman Legions (illustration by Ron Embleton)

Finally, there were ten cohorts in a legion which brought the average number of troops in the imperial legion to 5000.

The commander or general of an entire legion was known as the legatus legionis, or legate commander. This person was usually a senator, just like the patrician tribune who was his second-in-command. The third person of overall authority in the legion was the camp prefect, or praefectus castrorum. The latter was often a career soldier, perhaps a former centurion who had been promoted, and was responsible for much of the legion’s administration and logistics.

There were many other minor positions within the legions such as duplicarii, men who received double pay for skills such as engineering, or the building of siege equipment, as well as benificari, those who were aides to the legate or other officers, and who were excused for intense labour such as the digging of ditches and erecting palisades.

Roman legionary standards with an image of Emperor Severus and his family

Roman legionary standards with an image of Emperor Severus and his family

We must not forget the standard bearers who made up the imperial legion. These included the vexillarius, the person who carried the vexillum standard of each unit, the signifer, the soldier who carried a century’s standard and wore a wolf or other pelt over his helmet. There was the cornicen, the trooper who carried the cornu, the round horn used to rally the troops and give commands, as well as the imaginifer of the legion, the trooper whose task it was to carry the image of the emperor before the legion.

Probably the most important standard bearer was the aquilifer, the man whose solemn duty it was to carry the legion’s golden eagle, the aquila, into battle. This man was to protect the legion’s eagle at all cost, for it was the ultimate disgrace for a legion to lose its aquila to an enemy.

Re-enactor dressed as an Aquilifer

Re-enactor dressed as an Aquilifer

Along with the 5000 regular troops that made up an imperial legion, there were often alae, or auxiliary units, attached to the legion. These were usually units of 120 cavalrymen who acted as scouts and supported the legion on the march. They were often made up of foreign troops who had been brought into the Roman ranks such as Sarmatians, Numidians, or Scythians to name a few.

Ala units might also consist of skirmishers such as Cretan or Balearic slingers, but most often they were cavalry.

Auxiliary Cavalry troops (illustration by Ron Embleton)

Auxiliary Cavalry troops (illustration by Ron Embleton)

The imperial Roman legion was one of the most effective fighting units of the ancient world, and it is no wonder that the Empire covered so much of the known world by the time in which A Dragon among the Eagles takes place.

Disciplina, the goddess personification of discipline, was something that was taken very seriously. If a soldier obeyed her and remembered his training, he would survive the direst of circumstances.

Roman coin showing stardard bearers and the world 'Disciplina' - second century A.D.

Roman coin showing stardard bearers and the world ‘Disciplina’ – second century A.D.

When the legions marched in the field, every night they dug in, every trooper going to his assigned space to dig ditches, pile up ramparts, and raise the palisade around the entire camp.

Tent and command centre, the Principia and Praetorium, tribunes’ tents, stables etc. were always in the same position, the streets set out in the same grid every time. So, whatever happened, a Roman soldier knew where he was, and what he had to do.

Every morning, when they would break camp, they would take down the work of the previous evening, which they had done after a twenty mile march, so that the enemy could not make use of their fortifications.

Plan of a typical legionary fortress (FromThe Imperial Roman Army by Yann Le Bohec)

Plan of a typical legionary fortress (from The Imperial Roman Army by Yann Le Bohec)

It was hard work, but the imperial legion gave opportunity to the poorer classes of Roman citizens and allowed them to make something of themselves, if not at least be clothed and fed at the state’s expense.

In return, the men of the legions bled for Rome as they extended her borders into the world.

A Dragon among the Eagles takes place during the Severan invasion of the Parthian Empire, one of the biggest thorns in Rome’s side for over two hundred years.

In A.D. 197, Septimius Severus set out with one of the largest invasion forces in Rome’s history, made up of a titanic 33 legions.

The stage was set for one of the greatest military campaigns in Rome’s history.

In the next post, we’ll look at this powerful enemy and the tactics they used in battle against the legions.

Until then, check out this great video that illustrates the make-up of the Roman legion.

Thank you for reading!

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The Holiday Historical Fiction Blowout! – For the Love of History

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Dear readers and fellow history-lovers,

I’ve got something different to share with you this week.

I’m taking part in a spectacular event from December 1st to 8th called the Holiday Historical Fiction Blowout!

During this special promotion all of the authors involved with be offering their chosen books for just .99 cents in various on-line stores. There is a lot of great storytelling here, and titantic deals to be had!

However, this isn’t just a sale, it’s an opportunity for us to learn something about various periods in history. During each day of the promotion, every writer is going to be blogging about the period of history and setting of each of their books.

We may all gravitate to different periods in time, but one thing we do share is a common love of history, reading, and writing.

The book that I am contributing to this special promotion, Children of Apollo – Eagles and Dragons Book I.

apollofinal

Children of Apollo is the first book in an exciting series set in the Roman Empire. It is a story of family, faith, love, and betrayal in time of war. This book takes you back in time to a world of gods and emperors, gladiatorial combat, chariot races, and heroes, to experience the ancient world like never before!

This story takes place during the early 3rd century A.D, during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus.

Despite the fact that this period in Roman history is a pivotal time for the Empire, it is often ignored by historical fiction authors. It is an exciting time of change, but also a time that many historians believe to be the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire.

When Children of Apollo begins, the Roman Empire is at its greatest extent, stretching from Britannia and Germania in the north to the North African provinces in the south, and from the Pillars of Hercules in the west to the Parthian Empire in the east, newly-conquered by Severus’ legions.

Roman_Empire_3rd century

This period in Roman history fascinates me for many reasons.

First off, Severus himself was of North African descent, hailing from the great city of Leptis Magna, the jewel of Proconsular North Africa. He was a soldier, and he knew how to reward soldiers and use the army to his advantage. This was one of the reasons he came out on top in the civil war that followed the infamous reign of Commodus and the time when the Praetorian Guard auctioned the imperial throne just a few years before.

Septimius Severus made many changes to the army, transferred units, and opened up positions that had been reserved for the aristocracy to the Equestrian class and lower. He seemed to have a knack for putting the right people in the right positions, except when it came to his Praetorian Prefect, Gaius Fulvius Plautianus.

Plautianus was actually a cousin of Severus’, also from Leptis Magna, and was constantly working in the background to gather power and wealth unto himself. He hated Severus’ sons, Caracalla and Geta, but most of all he hated the empress, Julia Domna.

Julia Domna was the first of the so-called ‘Syrian Women’, and she ushered in a line of strong women rulers. She was a constant adviser to her husband, extremely intelligent, and one of Plautianus’ greatest adversaries. Scholars and scientists came from all over the empire to speak with Julia Domna and be a part of her learned circle. She commanded respect, as did her successors.

This is the time in which Children of Apollo takes place. After a civil war, and a massive campaign against the Parthians involving over 30 legions, there is the potential for peace and prosperity, a new Pax Romana, under Severus.

SPQR

However, when the blood stops running on the battlefield, war usually moves to the back rooms of imperial Rome where political machinations can be more deadly than an enemy sword.

The story’s hero, Lucius Metellus Anguis, is a young man from an ancient, but destitute family, who has found success in the legions and risen through the ranks to become a tribune.

However, once the wars are over, this idealistic young man begins to find out that peace is not what he expected, success not what he was promised. Lucius has enemies lurking the shadows, and finds himself thrust into a new war that threatens to destroy his family, his faith, and all that he has worked for.

Are the Gods on his side? Can he survive to protect those whom he loves?

You’ll need to read Children of Apollo to find out!

At the Amphitheatre of Thysdrus (El Jem) where a gladiatorial combat scene takes place

At the Amphitheatre of Thysdrus (El Jem) where a gladiatorial combat scene takes place in Children of Apollo

Researching and writing Children of Apollo has been an adventure in and of itself.

The settings are vast and varied in the book. Part one takes us across the deserts and through the cities of Roman North Africa to the remote legionary base of Lambaesis, in Numidia. The second part of the book is set in imperial Rome, from the intimacy of the Metellus household, to the palaces of the Palatine Hill, and the temples and markets of the Roman Forum.

The story also takes us to ancient Etruria where family secrets are unearthed, and finally to an ancient settlement at Cumae where an oracle of the god Apollo has words for our protagonist.

On safari in the Sahara

On safari in the Sahara

Whenever possible, I love to travel to the places I write about. A safari of Roman sites in North Africa helped a great deal with the research for Children of Apollo and its sequel, from the dunes of the Sahara desert, to the great salt lakes of Tunisia, to the magnificent remains of Roman cities such as Thysdrus (El Jem), Thurburbo Maius, and Thugga.

However, it is only when walking the streets of Rome, by seeing the Forum and experiencing the peace of the Palatine Hill, that I was able to get a sense of the scale and grandeur of the Roman Empire, its majesty, but also the great human cost building such an empire took as toll.

From the green hills and vineyards of Etruria, to the dirt and marble of Rome, to the sand seas of North Africa where ancient mosaics lay open to the sky, creating this book has been one of the great journeys of my lifetime.

If you would like to read more about the history and settings of Children of Apollo, do make sure to check out the World of Children of Apollo six-part blog series which looks at the Desert, the Settlements of Roman North Africa, the Severan Dynasty, Imperial Rome, Etruria, and Cumae and the Sibyl.

At an Etruscan tomb that figures largely in the book

At an Etruscan tomb that figures largely in the book

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short journey through Children of Apollo with me.

If you haven’t read Children of Apollo yet, and your interest is piqued, be sure to download a copy for yourself at the discounted price (from $4.99 down to .99 cents) before December 8th on Amazon, Kobo, or Apple iBooks.

If you are so inclined, I’d be grateful if you shared this with your friends and family who may also enjoy history and an adventure in the Roman Empire.

There is a lot more in to come in the Eagles and Dragons series, so don’t forget to Join the Legions and sign-up for the Newsletter by clicking HERE so you can get special offers, advanced copies of new releases, and a lot more history!

Be sure to download these titles during the Holiday Historical Fiction Blowout!

Be sure to download these amazing books during the Holiday Historical Fiction Blowout!

Time marches on, and there are many more adventures to be had in the Holiday Historical Fiction Blowout!

Don’t forget to check out the posts by all the other participating authors listed below. There’s something for everyone from Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, to Medieval England, the Golden Age of Piracy, Regency England, and a Roman Empire of the Future.

There is a lot of talented storytelling in this group of creatives, so be sure to sign-up for everyone’s mailing lists and pick up your .99 cent treasures.

Happy Holidays and thank you for reading!

Now, here are all the other authors featured in the Holiday Historical Fiction Blowout from December 1st to 8th

Click on each author’s website link to read about the history and setting of each novel. Enjoy the journey!

 

A Similar Taste in Books – by Linda Banche

A Similar Taste in Books

Historical Period: Regency

Synopsis:

Book 1 of Love and the Library: Clara and Justin

“Pride and Prejudice” has always brought lovers together, even in the Regency.

Justin has a deep, dark secret—he likes that most despised form of literature, the novel. His favorite novel is “Pride and Prejudice”, and, especially, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Intelligent, lively, fiercely loyal Miss Elizabeth. How he would love to meet a lady like her.

Clara’s favorite novel is “Pride and Prejudice” and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Intelligent, steadfast and willing to admit when he is wrong. Can such a splendid man exist? And can she find him?

One day in the library, they both check out copies of their favorite book. When Justin bumps into Clara, the magic of their similar taste in books just might make their wishes come true.

A sweet, traditional Regency romantic comedy novella, but not a retelling of “Pride and Prejudice”.

Website: http://lindabanche.blogspot.com

Sales Link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/247691

On sale for 99 cents at Smashwords only with coupon code FF67C

 

Kingdom of Rebels – by Derek Birks

Kingdom of Rebels

Historical Period: Fifteenth Century – the Wars of the Roses

Synopsis:

When all hope is gone, only death lies in wait…

England in 1468 is a nervous kingdom. King Edward IV has fallen out with his chief ally during the Wars of the Roses, the powerful Earl of Warwick. 
Ned Elder, a young lord whose sword helped to put Edward on the throne, has been forced out of England by Warwick.

Far away on the Scottish border, a beleaguered fort, Crag Tower, desperately awaits Ned’s return. Led by his fiery sister, Eleanor, the dwindling garrison is all that remains of his brave army of retainers. Unknown to all except the loyal knight, Ragwulf, Eleanor has Ned’s young son in her charge – a son who has never seen his father. But, as border clansmen batter the gates with fire, the castle seems certain to fall. 

One by one Ned’s family and friends are caught up in Warwick’s web of treason. The fate of the Elders and those who serve them lies once more in the balance as all are drawn back to Yorkshire where they face old enemies once more. Eleanor can only hope that Ned will soon return. She must fight to keep that hope alive… and when Lady Eleanor fights, she takes no prisoners…

Website: www.derekbirks.com

Purchase at Amazon UK or at Amazon.com

Author Derek Birks

Author Derek Birks

 

Search for the Golden Serpent (Servant of the Gods, Book 1) – by Luciana Cavallaro

GoldenSerpent

Historical period: 600 BCE – Ancient Greece

Synopsis:

The story is about Evan, an architect whose been having strange dreams. He received an unexpected phone call from an entrepreneur from Greece who wants Evan to restore his Family’s home. He dismissed the caller and regarded the person as a crank. During a dream, he met the mysterious entrepreneur, Zeus, who catapulted him back in time, five hundred years before the birth of Christ. Evan, an unwilling participant finds himself entangled in an epic struggle between the gods and his life.

Website: http://luccav.com/2015/11/28/hhfb/

Purchase at Amazon, Smashwords, and Kobo

Author Luciana Cavallaro

Author Luciana Cavallaro

 

Children of Apollo (Eagles and Dragons – Book I) – by Adam Alexander Haviaras

apollofinal

Historical Period:   The Roman Empire, A.D. 202

Synopsis:

At the peak of Rome’s might a dragon is born among eagles, an heir to a line both blessed and cursed by the Gods for ages.

Lucius Metellus Anguis is a young warrior who is inspired by the deeds of his glorious ancestors and burdened by the knowledge that he must raise his family name from the ashes of the past. Having achieved a measure of success in the emperor’s legions in North Africa, Lucius is recalled to Rome where he finds himself surrounded by enemies, cast into the deadly arena of Roman politics.

Amid growing fears of treachery, Lucius meets a young Athenian woman who fills his darkening world with new-found hope. Their love grows, as does their belief that the Gods have planned their meeting, but when an ancient oracle of Apollo utters a terrifying prophecy regarding his future, Lucius’ world is once more thrown into chaos. Ultimately, he must choose sides in a war that threatens to destroy his family, his faith and all that he has worked for.

Website: http://eaglesanddragonspublishing.com

Available for purchase on Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo

Adam Portrait Twitter

Author Adam Alexander Haviaras

 

Sea Witch (Voyage One) – by Helen Hollick

SeaWitch

Historical Period: The Golden Age of Piracy – 1716

Synopsis:

Escaping the bullying of his elder half brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate with only two loves – his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crewmates unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa.

He is to meet Tiola Oldstagh an insignificant girl, or so he assumes – until she rescues him from a vicious attack, and almost certain death, by pirate hunters. And then he discovers what she really is; a healer, a midwife – and a white witch. Her name, an anagram of “all that is good.” Tiola and Jesamiah become lovers, but the wealthy Stefan van Overstratten, a Cape Town Dutchman, also wants Tiola as his wife and Jesamiah’s jealous brother, Phillipe Mereno, is determined to seek revenge for resentments of the past, a stolen ship and the insult of being cuckolded in his own home.

When the call of the sea and an opportunity to commandeer a beautiful ship – the Sea Witch – is put in Jesamiah’s path he must make a choice between his life as a pirate or his love for Tiola. He wants both, but Mereno and van Overstratten want him dead.

In trouble, imprisoned in the darkness and stench that is the lowest part of his brother’s ship, can Tiola with her gift of Craft, and the aid of his loyal crew, save him?

Using all her skills Tiola must conjure up a wind to rescue her lover, but first she must brave the darkness of the ocean depths and confront the supernatural being, Tethys, the Spirit of the Sea, an elemental who will stop at nothing to claim Jesamiah Acorne’s soul and bones as a trophy.

Website: http://www.ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com/

Helen’s books are available on Amazon

HelenH

Author Helen Hollick

 

INCEPTIO – by Alison Morton

INCEPTIO

Historic Period: Modern/Roman (alternate history)

Synopsis:

New York, present day, alternate timeline. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe.

Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety, at a price, and a ready-made family in a strange culture she often struggles with. Just as she’s finding her feet, a shocking discovery about her new lover, Praetorian special forces officer Conrad Tellus, isolates her.

And the enforcer, Renschman, is stalking her in her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why this Renschman is hunting her so viciously. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it…

Website: http://alison-morton.com/2015/12/01/holiday-historicals/

 Available for purchase on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks UK, iBooks US, Nook Book UK, and Barnes & Noble Nook (US)

Author Alison Morton

Author Alison Morton

 

Men of the Cross (Battle Scars I) – by Charlene Newcomb

MenoftheCross

Historical period: Medieval – 12th century

Synopsis:

War, political intrigue and passion… heroes… friends and lovers… and the seeds for a new Robin Hood legend await you…


Two young knights’  journey to war at Richard the Lionheart’s side sweeps them from England to the Holy Land in this historical adventure set against the backdrop of the Third Crusade.

Henry de Grey leaves Southampton in high spirits, strong in his faith and passionate about the mission to take Jerusalem back from Saladin’s army. Stephan l’Aigle’s prowess on the battlefield is well known, as are his exploits in the arms of other men. He prizes duty, honour and loyalty to his king above all else. But God and the Church? Stephan has little use for either.

Henry’s convictions are challenged by loss and the harsh realities of bloody battles, unforgiving marches, and the politics of the day. Man against man. Man against the elements. Man against his own heart. Survival will depend on more than a strong sword arm.

Website: http://charlenenewcomb.com/2015/11/30/holiday-historical-fiction-blowout

Available for purchase on Amazon

Author Charlene Newcomb

Author Charlene Newcomb

 

Flavia’s Secret – by Lindsay Townsend

FlaviasSecret

Historical Period: Ancient Roman Britain, 206 AD

Synopsis:

Spirited young scribe Flavia hopes for freedom. She and her fellow slaves in Aquae Sulis (modern Bath) have served the Lady Valeria for many years, but their mistress’ death brings a threat to Flavia’s dream: her new master Marcus Brucetus, a charismatic, widowed officer toughened in the forests of Germania. Flavia finds him overwhelmingly attractive but she is aware of the danger. To save her life and those of her ‘family’ she has forged a note from her mistress. If her deception is discovered, all the slaves may die.

For his part torn between attraction and respect, Marcus will not force himself on Flavia. Flavia by now knows of his grief over the deaths of his wife Drusilla and child. But how can she match up to the serene, flame-haired Drusilla?

As the wild mid-winter festival of Saturnalia approaches, many lives will be changed forever.

Website: www.lindsaytownsend.co.uk

On sale at Bookstrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/flavias-secret

Author Lindsay Townsend

Author Lindsay Townsend

 

Thank you for visiting, and please help spread the word about the Holiday Historical Fiction Blowout!

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Interview with Adam (Yup! C’est moi!)

Fros blog

 

Hi everyone!

This is not my blog post for the week. I just wanted to let you all know that I’ve been interviewed on my previous guest’s website.

Effrosyni has a great blog where she interviews a lot of fantastic authors. Definitely go and check it out!

And if you are curious about what is going on behind the scene in my writing life, do have a read of the interview. Effrosyni asks some great questions!

Click HERE to head on over and read the interview. 

Thanks, and I’ll see you all with a fantastic post on mythology in a couple days.

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