Liber I-My Youth
Caput I-Why I Write
My formal Roman name is Gaius Marius Insubrecus, the third of that name after my grandfather and an uncle whom I never met. My oldest son is the fourth of that name. We have been Quirites, Roman Citizens, since my grandfather was granted citizenship by the Roman Dictator, Gaius Marius, whom he served as a soldier.
During my life I have been known by many other names. My mates in the 10th legion, used to call me Pagane, “The Hick,” because I was such a farm boy when I joined up that they swore a dung cart dumped me outside the camp gates with the rest of its load. When I was the Senior Centurion, the “First Spear” of the 10th, and later, when my legs couldn’t hold up to the thirty thousand stride forced marches with full kit, the Camp Prefect, the other officers, even the legate and the broad-striper tribune, called me Prime, “Top.” Most importantly, Caesar himself, and now his son, the Princeps, “First Citizen,” down in Rome, called me amice, “friend.”
My dear wife has been badgering me to write my memoires. I suspect that her interest has nothing to do with an appreciation for history or literature. Retirement has not been easy for me and she just wants to keep me busy and out of her hair.
I served over twenty-five years in the army, most of it with the Tenth Legion, from the time Divus Iulius, Julius the God, launched himself into the boondocks of long-haired Gaul, through both civil wars, until his son, Octavianus, Filius Divi Iuli, the Son of Julius the God, now called Augustus, the “Exalted One,” defeated Marcus Antonius and his Egyptian tart. I am hard-pressed to remember two years in a row that we weren’t up to our asses in barbarians, Greek hirelings, Egyptians, a Parthian or two, and Romans, who were fighting for some other side.
Now, I can’t get through a single day without reliving it—memories of some dead mate, his throat torn out, staring up at me from the blood-stained grass; or, reliving the terror of being locked shield to shield with some son-of-a-bitch trying to gut me with a sword or split my skull open with an axe; or, the smell of burning huts and human flesh; or, the screams of women begging for mercy when there’s none to be had.
My skin is cured the color of a leather hide, except for jagged white lines of old scars when I didn’t get my shield or sword up in time, or some bastard snuck one in through my open side.
But, the dream is the worst.
I see myself in a shadowy squad bay with tent-mates I know are long dead. They’re saddling up their kit for an inspection, telling me to hurry or I’ll be missed.
But, I know they’re all dead.
“Move it, Pagane!” they shout, “The centurion will have your balls if you’re late for roll call!”
“I’m not supposed to be here,” I think, “I’m done with this.”
“Get your ass in gear! Move it,” they shout!
Then I wake up in a cold sweat screaming “No! I’m alive! I’m alive!”
I wake the wife up who nearly pisses herself thinking that barbarians have breached the walls and are slaughtering us in our beds. All the next day she complains about my waking her up and how she couldn’t get back to sleep.
It’s the soldier’s lot, I guess; no one survives unwounded in some way.
I have the scars but, for reasons I can’t imagine, the dream is the worst of all.
So, I don’t really blame my dear wife. I need a hobby to occupy my time other than wine, beer, dice and remembering.
Copyright, Ray Gleason 2013. : All rights and Privileges Preserved