Gaius Marius Insubrecus is Back! An Excerpt from “The Helvetian Affair,” Available in the US in May, 2016.

Strabo had been gone no more than half an hour when we heard his voice outside the tent yelling, “Ad signam! Fall in, you lazy, worthless maggots! Get out here on the street!”

We were looking at each other, wondering who Strabo was yelling at and what “fall in” meant, when Bantus and Tulli started herding us out of the tent, “Move! Move! Move! Grab your helmets! Insubrecus! Get your belt on! Let’s go! Move!”

When we got outside the tent, the sight of Strabo stopped us dead in our tracks. He was in a full legionary combat rig. A highly polished, bronze galea, an infantry helmet with red horsehair plumes, was tied tightly under his clean-shaven chin beneath the shining cheek guards. A blood red sudarium, a military scarf, was wrapped around his neck and tucked beneath a shining chainmail lorica, which reached halfway down his thighs. A highly polished leather balteus, a sword belt, studded with shining bronze plates, was hanging from his left shoulder and passed across his chest down to his right side. From there was suspended a gladius, encased in a red leather vagina, and a scabbard, reinforced with brightly polished bronze cladding. A thick leather military belt, a cingulum, was tightly fastened around his waist and held his gladius in place on his right side. A pugio in a scabbard hung on the left. From beneath his lorica hung a skirt of thick, red leather strips, pteruges, each one ending in a polished bronze tab, on which was stamped the visage of the god of war, Mars.

Despite the winter cold, his legs were bare to his ankles, which were enclosed by the thick leather straps of his black, military caligae, infantry hobnail boots. Over both shoulders, but pulled back to keep his weapons free, he wore the military cloak of the Tenth Legion, a blood-brown woolen sagum, which was fastened at his left shoulder by a shining bronze fibula, a brooch pin in the shape of a bull’s head. His right hand tightly grasped the leather-wrapped hilt of his gladius; in his left, instead of the accustomed scutum or pilum, the infantry shield and javelin, he held a long, thick wooden staff topped with a polished steel globe, the hastile of an optio centuriae, the “chosen one,” the second in command of a legionary century of eighty men. He was now our training officer and would help us become Roman soldiers.

“Bantus! Get this goat-rope straightened out!” he screamed. “I want two ranks right here! One behind the other! Move it!”

Bantus and Tulli got us lined up in two ranks facing Strabo. As they positioned each of us, they whispered, “Position of attention . . . Feet one pes apart . . . Hands and arms at your sides . . . Stand up straight.” Tulli tried to straighten out our helmets, which were wandering all around our heads, and to dress our tunics down through our military belts. Finally, Bantus took a position in front of our formation facing the apparition who was once our traveling companion, Strabo, and reported, “Training detail all present, Optio!”

Strabo announced, “Contubernium! Lax . . . ATE!”

Bantus slid his right foot straight back, toe to heel, and clasped his hands in front of him. We tried to emulate him. My helmet immediately slipped down in front of my eyes. When I attempted to adjust it, Strabo screamed, “Who gave you permission to move, Tiro Gaius Marius Insubrecus? You’re supposed to be a shaggin’ Roman soldier! Stop fidgeting like a paganus Gallicus waiting for his turn at the public latrine!”

And, there it was! From that moment on, my buddies in the Tenth Legion knew me as Gaius Marius Paganus . . . Gaius Marius, “The Hick.”

Strabo continued, “The rest of you miserable vermiculi, freeze! Don’t move! Don’t even breathe without my permission! This cluster has got to be the sorriest excuse for a military formation I have ever seen in my entire military career!”

Strabo began strutting across our front rank. “I do not know what I could have possibly done to offend the immortal gods so badly that they would send the Furies out of the depths of Tartarus to inflict this on me! You are the sorriest excuse for Roman soldiers I have ever seen!”

Suddenly, the domed end of Strabo’s hastile staff shot out into the stomach of a recruit in the first rank. The breath exploded out of the man and he doubled over. “Suck in that gut, Tiro!” Strabo ordered. “Stand up straight when standing in the presence of a superior officer!”

The man struggled to regain his composure as Strabo continued his tirade. “You are tirones Romani, the lowest things on earth! You are lower than sailors’ shit in the ocean! You are so low that you have to call the mules ‘sir!’ You will speak only when spoken to! And, your only authorized responses are, ‘Yes, sir!’, ‘No, sir!’, ‘I do not understand, sir!’, and ‘No excuse, sir!’ Do you pieces of fly shit understand me?”

There was a ragged chorus of “Yes, sir!”

“What?” Strabo yelled dramatically cupping his ear. “I can’t hear you! Do you understand me?”

Stronger this time, “Yes, sir!”

“What in the name of Martis is going on here?” Strabo screamed into our faces. “Did the recruiters send a bunch of puellulae, little girls, to this legion? Do you understand me?”

“YES, SIR!”

An Ancient Lesson In Social Diversity

For as the body is one, and yet has many members, all the members of that one body, being many, are one body. For the body is not one member, but many.

If the foot shall say, “Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, “Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?

If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the sense of smell? And, if they were all one member, where would be the body?

But, now are they many members, but one body.

And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you.” Nor again, the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No! Much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary. And, those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our less respectable parts have greater respect. For our more respectable parts have no need.

The body is arranged together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked honor, so that there should be no schism in the body, and that the members should have the same care one for another.

If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. If one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.

 

The text is based on Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 12, Verses 12-27

The Gaius Marius Chronicle 4: “The Mystery of the Murdered Centurion” (In Bookstores in 2017)

De Actis Diurnis Praefecti Vigilium

Mediolani

Anno Consulium Imp Caesaris Divi f Augusti VIII et T Statilii Tauri II

AUC DCCXXVIII

*

Journal of the Prefect of Police,

Mediolanum,

During the Consulships of the Imperator, Caesar, Son of the God, the Venerable One, 8th Term, and Titus Statilius Taurus, 2nd Term

26 BCE

__________________________________________________

DIES I – A D XVII KALENDAE MAII

Day 1 – 15 April

If one were to ask me what I hate the most about getting old, it’s sleep. Not sleeping itself, but the difficulty in sleeping.

When I was a youth in the legions, I could sleep deeply for the entire night on a pile of bricks. Now, well into my forty-ninth year, I feel like I’m taking a beating from my own mattress.

Any position I take in bed, I feel the aches of old injuries or the parts of my body that have been worn down by years of marching impedimentus, under full pack. I find the only position that’s not all ache and agony is lying flat on my back … which means I snore … which means Rhonwen, my darlin’ wife, plants an elbow in my ribs to get me to stop.

Then, it’s toss and turn … on my back … snore … elbow … repeat until the sun rises.

Some mornings, I feel like I’ve been beaten … bruised ribs … stiff joints … body parts that just won’t move. Ah, dear gods, for one night of a twenty-year-old’s sleep!