Authors: Nick Morris
Barbarian of Rome
Chronicles Volume Two
FISTS OF IRON
Published in the United
Kingdom by Purchace Publishing
Copyright © 2014 Nick Morris
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For my dear parents
Duane & June –
as good as it gets.
Very little is known about the Dacian people except that they were ultimately
Thracian in origin. They are first mentioned in Latin and Greek texts as the
Getae (Getai in Greek). An extremely fierce warrior people, the Getae were
said to dye their hair blue, and were of mixed Scythian and Thracian descent.
In the Ist Century B.C. a new chieftain arose named Burebista. Little is known of his rise to power, other than he was greatly aided by a wizard named Deceneus, who’d been educated in Egypt. Thanks to Deceneus’ influence Burebista was able to obtain total obedience from his people, even when he ordered them to cut their precious grape-vines and forego wine.
Burebista was to wage wars of conquest in the Balkans. He led armies of Falx swinging warriors against Celts, Thracians, Romans, Greeks and fellow Dacians. Burebista united the Dacian people, transforming a collection of disparate, warring tribal states into a single kingdom. He also gave them common rivals and enemies to fight – in the shape of the Celts and the Romans. However, he was not totally against the Romans, and sent one of his warriors named Acornion as an advisor to Pompey during his struggle against Caesar. This, together with the Dacian raids into the Roman territory a few years later, inspired Caesar’s bitterness against Burebista, fuelling his plans to thwart the latter’s rising Empire.
Burebista ruled a united kingdom along the Danube until 44BC., when he was cut down by aristocrats who felt that he had grown too powerful. Overall, his demise was not unlike his rival Caesar, who perished in a similar fashion that same year. Burebista’s demise ushered in a period of relative anarchy. Dacia was split into a number of smaller kingdoms and thus weakened.
In A.D.106 Roman Emperor Trajan set out to destroy his troublesome neighbours. His doctor, Criton, gloated that when Trajan had finished with them, there were just ‘forty’ Dacians surviving. Trajan himself thought it worthy to boast that he, ‘Single-handedly annihilated the people of Dacia.’ The claim that only ‘forty’ survived is a gross exaggeration, but Dacia was drained of its population as its natives were taken as slaves or as soldiers in the Roman legions. When Dacia was looted by Rome, the armies brought home over 1,500 tons of gold and over 3,000 tons of silver.
The Dacian people in reality weren’t ‘annihilated’ but their culture, traditions and religion seem to have been.
To rub salt into the memory of Dacia it was even renamed for Rome...we call it Romania.
Nick Morris. 2014.
Dacian border with the
Roman Empire – early Ist Century A. D.
The rising sun’s rays cut through the forest fringing the adjacent hills. The beams of light illuminated the massed squares of Roman infantry that moved steadily forward across the broad valley floor. The early mist was growing ragged, driven by a cold wind.
Drilgisa could hear a fox barking high up in the forest at his back, and a vixen’s answering cry. The waiting seemed endless, but he knew the quiet wouldn’t last. Then all along the battle line coursed a ripple of expectancy, like the silent pull on the taut string of a bow. War horns snarled in the mist followed by the strident flare of Roman trumpets. The shouting began, together with the cursing and clatter of Dacian weapons on shields, and a growing rumble in the ground.
He felt a cold shiver run the length of his spine as he watched the advancing army. Stood in the front rank of the Dacian host he was young to fight in such a battle – barely fifteen summers – but he was tall and strong; as strong as many that stood alongside him. He shifted his hands on the grip of his scythe-like sword, the deadly
. Its rough leather handle felt good, steeled him.
Come Romans, and feel its bite,
he challenged inside his head,
let it drink your blood
He put up his hand unconsciously and felt the raised lines that stretched from his temples to the middle of his forehead. Ten days previously Bikili had come to him. A small ancient man, dried and shrivelled like old ox-hide and greatly respected for his wisdom and his skill. He’d lain on his back as Bikili had drawn the pattern with the spike of crow’s feather dipped in woad – that of the two facing wolves’ heads bordered by a complex pattern of spirals. After that, Bikili’s nephew had taken over with his tattooing needles and pots of red and black dye. The memory of the stinging torment made the skin tingle between his eye-brows. He smiled, proud of the potent symbol of his people and his manhood.
The warriors all around him screamed loud obscenities at the advancing wall of steel. The Romans had the greater numbers, but his chiefs had picked their fighting ground to good advantage, their force arrayed like a great winding snake across a low hillside, with a thick forest of tall oak, beech and black wood at their rear. It was a good place to fight and kill, where the Romans would have little room to use their mounted warriors. Weapons were shaken in defiance, some warriors exposing their cocks, others spitting and screaming as they stirred themselves to a pitch. Drilgisa could hear the man next to him grind his teeth between curses as he shook his axe over his shield at the enemy.
Drilgisa swallowed hard, the flickering sun highlighting the tips of the Roman spears jutting forwards between their large shields. He knew where to strike with his
, he’d practiced the stroke thousands of times, until his palms grew bloody, the skin eventually turning to hard callouses. The great sword gave him a good reach and he would aim for the neck area between the helmet and chest armour, over the top of the shield.
A chill breeze swept across the host and Drilgisa could smell the fresh forest tinged with the stink of piss and shit. He spat with disdain, ashamed that others could not control their fear. He told himself that
wasn’t afraid, although his mouth was dry, and there was a tension in his chest, like a beast tensing its muscles to spring. He reasoned that his father had scourged anything like fear from him as a boy, before he died, before he killed him. Drilgisa felt no sorrow that he might die, only a detached bitterness. There was no one to mourn him, with his mother many years in the ground. His father’s new wife – who became Drilgisa’s property after his death – hated him and his coldness. She would soon find another cock if he fell.
The distance between the two armies had closed to fifty paces and the Roman ranks parted to expose large metal bows mounted on wheels. Drilgisa watched with horrid fascination as the machines’ bow strings twanged dully, to be followed by a rush of air and then screams of pain, as six foot metal spears ripped into the Dacian front ranks. Drilgisa watched the iron bolts tear great holes among them, spearing men together and crushing them into the ranks behind. Drilgisa gripped his
harder, bellowing a curse of his own. The initial carnage was terrible, and he realized that the Dacian commanders had trouble stopping their warriors rush forward and losing the advantage of the slopes on which they were arrayed; the Romans having to trudge uphill to engage them.
The iron bolts ran out and there were shouted commands from the Roman ranks that Drilgisa could hear plainly but not understand. Then the sky was filled with a blackness that for a few heartbeats dimmed the light of the sun. The Roman javelins fell in a hail of sharp iron. Drilgisa ducked instinctively, knowing that his leather armour would provide no protection against this deadly shower if he were struck. The teeth grinder next to him belched out a painful cry. A javelin had struck him in the eye, ripping through his head to jut out the back of his skull. He was dead before hitting the ground. Drilgisa kicked the body aside, closing the gap in the ranks. The warrior at his side elbowed him to get his attention.
“Good, stay tight,” he advised, “That’s the best they can do as long as our line doesn’t break up. Stand firm and we’ll soon get to grips with the bastards, and then we’ll make them pay.”
Drilgisa briefly turned to the warrior.
He was old, deep-chested. His thick beard and black hair were grizzled with grey, unlike the majority of the younger warriors who died their long hair blue, like he did. He carried a round shield, decorated with a snarling wolf’s head daubed in red. A dented conical helmet with a nasal guard capped his head and he gripped a heavy single edged sword in his right fist. Drilgisa’s keen eye noticed that its sharp edge was marked with deep nicks from past battles. He knew that the warrior was worth listening to.
The veteran leaned close, his breath stinking of stale meat and bad teeth. “When we close with them, keep close and I’ll try to protect your left side with my shield. Just keep swinging that sword. They will aim for your guts and your balls with their short swords. Just keep swinging…understand?”