The Decline of Suetonius Porcinus
Tales of Publius Quinctilius Varus, the patrician of Cremona who, as Governor of Germania lost three Legions in the forest are, if one can forgive the pun, legion, yet the story of Suetonious Lardicus Porcinus seems to have flown from the collective memory almost as soon as its arrival shocked the Emperor and people of Rome into raising three more Legions and a host of Auxiliary formations to counter the threat from the Barbarians in the North.
Appointed Legatus in what we would now call AD6 (for other nomenclature would be foolish in extremis), Porcinus was sent to Mogontiacum, that fair and noble city on the River Rhenus. There his military duties focussed largely on expanding the sphere of civilisation across that great waterway into the lands of the Chatti. It was at first a peaceful matter, with the Germanic peoples apparently slowly but surely taking on the mantle of civilisation, of learning Roman ways and even aspiring to assimilate in their own small but not insignificant fashion. However, dark clouds were assembling on the horizon as the rate of reform was accelerated by the Governor and usurious taxes were applied against people who, whilst defeated by Tiberius, had considered themselves allies rather than a subjugated race.
Aware that trouble was brewing, Porcinus began to oversee the construction of small fortifications and Limes walls in order to protect those lands to the East of the Rhenus where the farms provided grain for the great city at Mogontiacum. It was approaching the Ides of Sextilis when the Legate determined to visit the site of the work accompanied by a Vexillum of mixed Legionary and Auxiliary troops commanded by the reliable and experience Centurio Publicus Thermae, a veteran of the wars in Cantabrica and Germania, and Pilus Posterior to the Legion. Accompanying them was a small contingent of allied Gauls under their tribal Lord Dodgitrix who operated as outlying scouts. Sadly, for this tale is not one of joy, Porcinus was minded to bring along his new bride, the beautiful and aristocratic Lady Falopia for his heart was captivated by her charms and no separation could be endured.
It was as the Legates travelling Raeda, hauled by bullocks, approached the town of Nida that the Centurio courteously but with a sense of brusqueness made his report.
“Begging to inform you my Lord, but we appear to be under observation. Germans in the woods.”
“Thank you Centurion. Any idea on numbers?”
“Hard to say sir, but Dodgitrix and his Gaulish scouts say possibly thousands of them. And they ain’t happy, if you’ll excuse my directness sir. May I suggest that we make a run for the small outpost up ahead so that at least you and the Lady may take shelter and find safety?”
It was with that plan in mind that the column began its hard march towards the small tower manned by a contubernium of Auxilia from the Cohortes Batavia XI. The outpost was indeed tiny, just eight men, but the walls of the small tower were strong and the Legate and his wife would be able to shelter until help could come from the Legionary fort at Nida once the signals had been sent. Indeed, the warning beacon was already belching thick dark smoke as the oil fueled the flames that consumed the first timbers.
Centurio Publicus Thermae headed the column which advanced still in open march column as no direct threat could be discerned, despite fleeting glimpses of figures in the woods and cries that could come from the throat of no animal known to man. Talk of wood demons and worse could be heard in the ranks of the advancing Legionaries.
As the column advanced, hindered by the slow pack of the ox drawn Raeda, the head of the column emerged into open ground in time to see a body of Germanic warriors emerge from the woods ahead. Adawolfus Catticus, as his name was given in Latin, was known to the Centurio. He was known to his tribes-folk as Adawolf the Spearman, a leading aristocrat of the Chatti people and a fearsome opponent who had fought long and hard against the invaders from the South. Like the rest of his tribe, Adawolf had succumbed to the Legions of Tiberius only a few years before but now, arrayed for battle, there could be no doubting his intent. With him were the men of his household bodyguard under their commander, the aged warrior Doerflag the Old, who, it was said, had fought Ceasar himself in the wars in Gaul. But men say many things.
As the Romans advanced, German woodsmen began to shoot arrows from the trees; more of an inconvenience than a true threat as these were no warriors but men accustomed to hunt boar and birds, yet their presence obliged some caution. Men lost foolishly now would cost dear in the forthcoming fight.
Yet now Roman woes were compounded as Conrad Brown Legs emerged from the woods near the tower, taking care to keep their distance from the javelins of the Roman defenders, but advancing towards the Auxilia on the open field.
In response to these twin threats, Publicus Thermae brought forwards his Legionaries and formed into a mass, ready to face a charge but with shields up to protect them from the huntsmen who were now running forwards to close the range before loosing their arrows and retiring into the thick undergrowth.
To their rear Dodgitrix was moving around to cover the marshy ground on the right but was delayed while walllowing in mud as his men jostled forwards.
The small Auxilia contingent which formed part of the Vexillum was led by a young Optio, Julius Batavius who was clearly keen to win honour and display his virtue on the battlefield. Enraged by the approach of Conrad Brown Legs, his voice rang out clear and his Auxilia moved forward at a pace which outstripped any possible support.
The Gaul Dodgitrix, an experienced warrior, could see the portentous signs of doom and rushed to catch up with his men, but time was not on his side. With a cry the followers of Conrad Brown Legs hurled themselves forward in a peak of fervour and ferocity.
When they met, it was murder. the violence of the German charge met the men of the Batavian Cohort in a state of some disorder and the onslaught saw the Germanic allies of Rome pushed back. As the Batavians retired towards the marsh, Dodgitrix attempted to buy them time, but the fight was one-sided, outnumbered as two are to one. The brave Gaul also fell back bruised but with honour intact for he had fought bravely for his Roman allies.
Now, on came Adawold and Dorflaeg. They had been whipping their followers into a fervour or passion, hate and sheer blood-lust and now the mob moved across the table, still under control but baying to be unleashed. Rallying his men, the young Optio moved his Auxilia up to take their place on the right of the Roman formation as the body braced to receive the charge.
Conrad Brown Legs ignored the Auxilia and pushed on his attack into the Gauls. His men were at the point where the fervour that had propelled them forwards in their initial violent attack was nearly gone, yet one last charge saw them best Dodgitrix and his party.
On came Adawold and with a huge surge forwards his men crashed into the Roman line, brushing off the hail of pila that came on the Centurion’s command just before impact. On the left the Centurion and his Optio, Quintus Licinius Costco, fought bravely in the front rank, hacking and slashing with their short swords, punching with their shields and driving the Germans back. To the Centurion it seemed that the German tidal wave of violent humanity had been broken on the rock that was the Legion.
Yet in the centre Dorflaeg the Old drove his men hard into the Roman line, breaking the formation. The Legionaries to the rear opened ranks to allow their battered comrades to fall back and then formed up to receive a further attack. Bruised as they were Dorflaeg called upon all of his Gods to give them strength, rallying his men for one final effort.
Recognising the threat, Publicus Therma turned his rear rank to face the threat and attacked the Germans in the flank. But the Gods were not with him. Three Legionaries fell dead and the Centurion fell with a wound to the head.
Some say it was the young Optio who dragged the wounded officer to safety, others that Dodgitrix played that role. What is certain that there was feasting in the mead halls that night, as Suetonious Lardicus Porcinus and his beautiful wife Falopia were led in chains before the throng. Yet for Adawolf there was a realisation. To begin a rebellion against Rome was a simple affair. To sustain that rebellion in the face of awesome power in the form of the Legions was another matter. He had ensured that the chains were not so tight as to be uncomfortable and that the Legate and his wife were housed in comfort if not without any degree of splendour. This would, he realised, be only the beginning and not the end. War with Rome would bring hard times.
Apologies for the dice littering the table in the photos, we plan to tidy that uo as we continue with Disciplina et Virtus, but I hope you enjoyed seeing how the game unfolded. Surely it cannot be long until the recovered Pilus Posterior returns in an attempt to free the Legate and his Lady?