Forgiveness is often easier than permission.
LTC Jose “Joe” Alvarez
Lucius Aurunculeius Cotta brushed aside the Governor’s Lictors and some military sentries commanded by a junior Contubernalis.
“An ensign who should be assigned to me,” he growled. Storming through the building with the futilely protesting young ensign in his wake, he located the office of the province Quaestor and entered.
A clerk attempted to bar his passage, but Cotta pushed the unfortunate out of his way by the face. Never one to suppress his opinion, it was the reason his career had stagnated at Tribune rank, Cotta knew his mouth was about to get him in trouble once more, but his anger suppressed consideration for consequences.
“I am the commander of VII Legion,” he shouted. “I demand to know why my requisition has not been filled.”
Various scribes and clerks seated about the room were startled out of their work. At the far side of the room, two men conferring from opposite sides of a wide desk, looked up from their business. The elder of the two, was portly with the dark Phoenician complexion indigenous to the region. The other, wearing a very loosely belted toga was of medium height and much leaner, with stunning blue eyes, an aquiline face, and a slightly pink complexion, his extraordinarily good looks were only slightly marred by the beginnings of a receding hairline.
Although Cotta’s vitriolic entrance made both men stand abruptly, the smaller man showed no outward anger at the intrusion. The portly Phoenician defused a potentially ugly scene with a fatherly gesture of introduction in excellent, albeit, heavily accented and lisping Gadirian Latin.
“Quaestor! Doth thou know Tribune Laticlavius Lucius Aurunculeius Cotta? The Tribune doth commandeth the VIII Legion. Tribune, may I present Provincial Quaestor Caius Iulius Caesar.”
Before Balbus could complete his introductions Caius Iulius waved him off and smiled as he recognized, Cotta. Caius Iulius walked briskly around the desk his face also radiating warmth and congeniality, his smile brilliant, his hand extended.
“Senator Balbus! Thou hast no need for introductions; Lucius Aurunculeius Cotta and I are cousins! Ave, Lucius! How is your father?” Caius gripped Cotta’s hand firmly then threw his arm around the Tribune’s shoulder.
Cotta bridled slightly, returning the friendly embrace genuinely as he could.
He knows better! I was an extra son, adopted into his mother’s side of the family. Technically, we are cousins, but we are not blood and he knows it! Is he patronizing me?
“Balbus hath told me much of your VIII Legion, cousin Lucius!” continued Caius Iulius in Latin. “What problem hast thou? For what dost thou need wooden posts in a fighting Legion?”
Cotta immediately resumed a calm demeanor returning the Quaestor’s handshake firmly as Balbus answered the Quaestor’s question, again, in Latin.
“Dominus! The posts art used by the Centurios for gladius training. I believeth thou didst at one time serve in the marines? The classicae didst thou not train aboard ship?”
“Of course we did! But cousin, of what use could they be but for oars? Wouldst thou have thine Legion train to that service?”
The Quaestor’s smile and firm handshake tempered Cotta’s anger almost at once.
My cousin is no Vir Militaris, but I have a feeling it would be difficult to refuse, much less disagree with this slightly built, soft faced, soft looking, loose belted one campaign marine!
Balbus indulged the Quaestor with a short laugh and spoke for Cotta once more:
“Quaestor! Thou canst not emplace eight foot posts on the deck of a trireme! The posts art placed in the ground in rows. The men practice their fighting positions with the rudis or the gladius while not endangering each other.”
The Quaestor’s face turned serious.
“How may I be of service to thee, Tribune?” he asked.
Cotta kept away from the legion vernacular, keeping to proper Latin.
“Quaestor, what Senator Balbus sayest is true. I submitted a written request for ‘posts, eight foot’ several weeks ago for training purposes!”
The Quaestor stood for a moment, arms folded, tapping an index finger off his nose.
“Yes, I dost now remember seeing such a request, but verily I canceled thine request in utter ignorance! Cousin, forgive me!”
“Caius Iulius! There is nothing to forgive! Thou art a Priest of Jupiter not a military man!”
“Lucius! Consider thine request filled with humblest apologies for my lack of martial knowledge! It is a lack of such knowledge which that I wouldst correct! May I make a request of thee?”
“Name it, Caius Iulius!”
“My duties as Provincial Quaestor will be over at the end of the year, and I returneth to Rome. In the meanwhile, I findeth these duties too easy and tedious in the extreme, which makes them dull beyond belief. I fear to find myself resembling good Balbus here, more and more with each passing day.”
“How may I be of service to thee cousin?”
“I wouldst train with thy men – when my duties permit, of course.”
Cotta was caught off guard again.
“I have been awarded a Corona Civica, but my military experience in Rome hath on occasion been questioned by my political adversaries in an effort to make walk me under their yoke! I desire more knowledge of your profession. One never knows when it could be of value.”
“Thy presence wouldst be most welcome when and where ever thou wisheth, Quaestor.”
“There is one more thing, Tribune. Governor General Vetus would not be happy were he to find me playing at soldiering, even your troops knowledge of my presence, well, it wouldst be best if they didst not know who I am!”
Cotta rendered the legion salute, demonstrating his appreciation of the Quaestor’s request by departing without another word.
By the time he caught up with Cotta just outside the building Balbus’ lungs were heaving.
“Tribune! If it pleases thee, a moment?”
Cotta slowed his pace, shoving his leather and horse hair galea onto his head, but stopped and turned at Balbus’ shout, tying off the thongs beneath the cheek pieces.
Balbus’ effort and his paunch made him breath heavier than in younger days. He stretched a hand out, the younger man catching it, allowing the Spaniard’s meaty palm to rest on the shoulder strap of his boiled leather musculata curraise.
Cotta assisted Balbus to a nearby bench and both took a seat. When Balbus regained his breath, he patted Cotta’s chest, then straightened his posture.
“I wished to thank you for your patience with my bureaucratic friend in there,” Balbus gasped, his camp-latin spoken with a heavily lisping accent common to Gadirians. “He means well, really does take his duties seriously, unlike so many others.”
“Senator! You know him well?” Cotta replied, noticing the lisp.
Of course they would call him Balbus, his accent and the lisp would earn anyone such a nick-name! Cotta, politely, kept the thought to himself.
“We are but recently acquainted,” continued Balbus, in creditable Legion vernacular. “But I know of him. The Quaestor is from a very ancient and respected, but impoverished family with excellent connections. He is an accomplished diplomat, orator and lawyer; very ambitious, though I am surprised to see one such as he posted so far from Rome.”
Balbus looked around then whispered conspiratorially.
“He likes the ladies you see, and they like him. Not the type you would expect to take, well, so rustic a posting as my country.”
Cotta made no reply as Balbus pulled him closer, his manner ever more conspiratorial.
“He could be good for your men and influential for your career. When he returns to Rome he plans to be elected to the lifetime office of Pontificus Maximus, then Praetor or Pro-Consul to this Province – if he can garner enough silver to make the necessary bribes! It is my wish to groom him to run this province without impoverishing our people! That would be a blessing for us all! The gods know the current Governor will do well enough for himself!”
Cotta winced at the slander and looked around to insure that no one was close enough to hear them.
“I don’t understand how this could affect me or my men.”
“If he returns as Governor, he will need Legates familiar with the country, the people, the men and the units they belong to. You are a Tribune of the senior rank, but you are older than most I have seen in your grade!”
Cotta’s face grew hard. Balbus smiled, slyly.
“Oh come now, Tribune, you are from a decent family. Do you wish to remain a simple tribune your entire career?”
Cotta looked away, dwelling on the man’s words.
“Allow him to train with your men anonymously as he has requested. Let him gain an understanding of them and their ways. He has a remarkable talent for names!”
Cotta’s eyes returned to Balbus.
“Meanwhile I have been introducing him to the right people here in Cordoba as well as Gadir. These are people who will hopefully make his tour a little more profitable than it might have been! From what I have seen, he is cut from a different cloth than the average Roman sent here; present company accepted of course! There are issues and conditions here in Baetica that need addressing, and if the Romans won’t send us one to do it, we will teach, train and mold one who will! He will be grateful to you and return the favor. This I guarantee!”
“He has always been loyal to my family, but has never given me much notice,” insisted Cotta, as his eyes remaining fixed on Balbus’.
“Some men will surprise you,” whispered Balbus. “Do not judge the scroll by the worth of the wax of the seal. I see no hay on his horns!”
“You sound like you have seen service in the Legions.”
“I have, Tribune! Five years an engineer with the I Legion, several of them spent on campaign with the Magnus and Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius against Quintus Sertorius and his rebels!”
2nd Cohort stood at Parade Rest, double arms distance apart, odd numbered Prior Centuries in front, even numbered posteriors to their rear.
“Marching down the road is not all there is to it!” Carfulenus bawled, strolling across the Cohort front. “To be effective in battle you must master unit drill! The Greeks of Laconia first introduced unit drill and made good use of it at a place called Thermopylae. Alexander Magnus perfected it and used unit drill to conquer his great Empire!”
“When you have mastered the art of drilling you will begin to work as a unit.” Carfulenus’ voice carried to the rear of the formation. “The purpose, to instill discipline into the individual as well as the unit, has not changed since Alexander. Teamwork, confidence, pride and discipline are all acquired through relentless drill!”
“Drill and that stick he carries,” Pullo muttered under his breath.
“Drill consists of a series of movements by which a unit or units are moved in an orderly manner from one point to another either to engage the enemy, to maneuver into a position to engage, to take advantage of the changing tactical situation, or to relieve a unit in contact. Are there any questions?” Carfulenus demanded.
The veteran Prorsus roamed about making slight adjustments to the eight man files one arm’s length apart, and Balaenus checked the even numbered Centuries drawn up in identical order directly behind.
“Elements! Each of you is an element in your Contubernium!” Carfulenus put his hand on the top of Crastinus’ cassis.
“Each contubernium is an element of the century,” he said, spreading his arms wide to designate the octet. “The files are like a column with a front of one. Each file consists of eight men. Ten octets make a century of eighty men.”
“Each century is an element of the cohort!”
He stood in front of the formation and used his arms to simulate encompassing the entire century. When he was sure they understood this concept, he returned to the front of the formation and pointed to the right and the left.
“The space from one side or flank to the other side or opposite flank of the formation is called your front!”
Carfulenus began walking through the formation waving his vitis back and forth over his head. “The space between elements is referred to as the distance between units.”
When he reached the last row, Carfulenus stopped.
“The area behind you is your rear. You want to make sure it is covered at all times.”
Sniggering and a few giggles pervaded the formation.
“Not for Pelitus,” some wit whispered.
“Attack from the rear, you waste of semen,” growled Carfulenus, rounding the corner of the square formation to approach the front from the right flank.
“This space from the front to the rear is the unit depth,” he said while tapping the helmeted head of each man as he walked back to the rear of the formation
“Each rank is only one element in depth, and the man to the far right in the front rank is called the right guide.”
Carfulenus returned to the right front of the formation where Pelitus held a signum staff with an extended hand mounted at the top.
“You will guide your movement on the Signifer. He is responsible for maintaining the prescribed direction and rate of march, everyone to his left and rear guides on him.”
“Better move Petro further up in line!” muttered the same voice, slightly louder, and the reaction to the wit this time was more pronounced. Scanning the formation for the culprit, Carfulenus eyes grew flinty.
“The Signifer is also the base around which all movement is planned or regulated,” as he resumed strolling through the formation. “Drill commands are the oral orders given by the commander or leader, directing the unit in its movements. The order comes in two parts – a command of preparation, which states the movement to be carried out and prepares you to execute the order.” Out the corner of his eye Carfulenus caught sight of a tiro whose face he could not see turning his head and whispering to Vettius. To his credit Vettius endeavored to ignore him.
“The command of execution tells you when the movement is to be carried out. When you are given the order to march Milites is the command of preparation and Procedite is the command of execution. Notice the inflection of my voice on the execution order.”
The tiro whispered something to Vettius once again.
Like circling birds of prey, Prorsus and Balaenus attacked with their vita, one to the head, the second to the solar plexus. The silenced trainee dropped like a stone and remained where he fell.
“All commands are given and executed from the position of Stacio which, by now, all of you know means attention!” Carfulenus continued. “Some commands combine both preparation and execution.”
The centurio stopped when he stood over the oxygen-starved tiro long enough to note his name and octet before grasping the man’s sword belt and lifting his torso from the ground enough to get his lungs full of air once more.
“Ad Signum, or Fall in, State, At Ease, and Rest are commands given without inflection and at a uniform pitch to a normal command of execution.”