When in Rome - Cover

When in Rome

Copyright© 2023 by FantasyLover

Chapter 11

Days 268-270

I started when I awoke, scaring poor Theodora. I apologized and kissed her, leading to ... well, guess. Afterwards, I checked my gear and almost broke out in a song and dance when I found that everything had arrived safely.

I rode between the two cities twice, making sure that my instructions were being carried out. In each city, I had Theodora talk to the single women to make sure that none of them had been abused aside from losing their virginity. I also made sure that our ships had fodder loaded for the next legs of our trip. Each town received one of our flags with instructions to fly it. More Roman troops would be arriving, and I doubted that the cities wanted the troops to think that they had to conquer the city again. It took three days to finish looting the cities and I could tell that the people were more on edge each day that we were there.

I assigned squads in each city to search for any scrolls, documents, or clay tablets that had writing while they looked for loot. They searched every building, including those already looted. A man who could read Greek was assigned to each squad to determine what the document was. If it had anything to do with history or science, we “borrowed” it. I had no interest in religious texts or documents dealing with mundane matters like commerce and inventories. All documents that we took were carefully packed in wooden crates and had a large X painted on the top. I promised the owners that I’d return them after I’d had them copied, warning that I had no idea how long that would take.

Filling a blank piece of parchment, I sent a letter aboard one of the ships loaded with loot and bound for Puteoli. It explained my idea to build a library/scriptorium for Celsus and asked him to find a safe place to keep all the documents until I returned. I also asked that the crates not be opened so the documents weren’t mixed up.

Just before dusk, our entire fleet sailed south. The ships carrying loot and captives headed to Puteoli. The remainder would surround the southern tip of the Chersonese, the lengthy peninsula along the northwest side of the Hellespont that was Macedonian territory.

Theodora let me know what the large statues were for that morning. “You should leave a statue in each of the cities that you conquer and suggest to the people that they thank the Goddess you serve for the restraint shown by your troops. Tell them that those who worship her will find their harvests are larger, their herds grow faster, and their women have fewer problems giving birth.”

I rode south from Madytos with half of my troops, following the road to Elaeus, our final target before Thessalonike. I’d assigned troops and sentries to form a loose picket line across the peninsula to warn us of an approaching army and to capture anyone fleeing Elaeus or any of the numerous towns on the southern part of the peninsula. When we reached the halfway point, we camped for the night. Since Theodora had insisted on riding with me, I gave her a set of confiscated armor that fit her, sort of. She apologized because she was too sore to have sex again tonight unless I wanted to. I declined, explaining that I never wanted to hurt her.

Day 271

We arrived at Elaeus mid-morning. Grudgingly, the city opened their gates to let us enter. They had already been warned about our weapons by some of Philip’s troops who found their way to the city while looking for a ship home.

Well before sundown, the next eligible group of my men had chosen the last of the single women and the careful process of systematic looting began. The troops had been instructed to confiscate any blank vellum (usually made from calf skin) or parchment (usually made from the skin of sheep or goats) as part of the loot, and to add scribes, as well as people who made vellum or parchment to the list of skilled workers I wanted to take with us.

Day 272-273

Theodora was feeling frisky this morning. Once we were both happy with the result, we dressed and exited my tent. Theodora began questioning the newly enslaved women, again making sure that none of them had been abused while I began filling our quota of slaves from among the craftsmen of the city.

With all of my troops in one place, it only took two days to complete the looting. Most of our plunder was aboard our ships by nightfall of our third day here.

Day 274

After making sure that everyone was aboard and everything was correctly loaded, we sailed for Thessalonike shortly before lunch, right after the ships with loot and captives left for Puteoli.

Our cargo was another statue lighter, that statue now placed in the agora in Elaeus, just as we’d done in Madytos and Sestus.

Day 277

We’d been in the Thermaic Gulf all day, our ships spread out to ensure that we intercepted any foreign ships that we encountered. When we were closer to our target, our attack ships would blockade the mouth of the Loudias River, the river leading to Pella, the Macedonian capital. They would prevent a Macedonian fleet from attacking us since such a fleet would have to pass through the river’s mouth, limiting the number of ships that could exit at once, making them easy targets for our catapults.

Well before midnight, we reached the area near Thessalonike, which became biblical Thessalonica, and modern Thessaloniki. We unloaded a quarter of our troops and two catapults a few miles southeast of the city. Their job was to secure the nearby village and then move on Thessalonike. Once the first wave of troops was ashore, they surrounded the village and went door to door, warning the inhabitants that my men would guard the village all night. If they saw even one person outside before dawn, the entire village would be taken as slaves. If they remained inside and obeyed our commands, they would be left in peace.

When the remainder of our troops were ashore and mounted, and their two catapults were hooked up to the horses to pull them, they headed for Thessalonike.

Across the gulf to the northwest, the remainder of our troops debarked, also taking two catapults with us. I commanded the majority of our troops since we were only a day’s ride from the Macedonian capital of Pella.

Day 278

When the sky lightened enough for me to make out our troops on the other side of Thessalonike, I had my cornicen sound the advance call. Three hundred yards short of the walls, we stopped. By now, the city knew that we were here, especially since several of our ships were tied up at the docks. Catapults aboard those ships were loaded and the oarsmen were ready to beat a hasty retreat once the ships were untied. Our presence was impossible to miss.

I approached the city under a flag of truce and one of the city’s leaders finally came out to meet me. I rode close enough to our ships that he could see Philip, tied securely between two of my larger men. “We’ve captured your king and all of his troops,” I told him.

When I motioned, ten of the Macedonian troops that we had found in Elaeus debarked and walked over to us. We’d given two thousand or so a ride, scattered among our ships, promising to release them near Thessalonike. “These are ten of Philip’s troops that we captured. Take them inside the city walls and talk to them. Ask them if they want to face us in battle again. I expect them to return before the bottom of the sun rises more than two fingers above the horizon.

“You will have a short time after that to decide if you will surrender or fight. We will sound the horn to advance right before we attack.”

They nearly ran into the city, the ten men returning about half an hour later. I thanked them and sent them off to the south. Shortly after that, the same representative returned. “The wealthiest won’t let us surrender and they control the city’s troops,” he lamented.

“Aren’t all the city leaders usually among the wealthy?” I asked him.

“I’m one of the city leaders because I have common sense. No amount of money will do me any good if I’m dead or a slave. My freedom and that of my wife and children is worth more to me than my money and possessions.”

“I should warn you, even if you surrender, all single women will be taken as slaves,” I told him. It was only fair.

“I know,” he sighed. “The soldiers that you let speak with us, warned us. They also told us that you’ve kept your word in the first three cities you captured and harmed nobody. They also told us about the rules you gave your men about the women.”

“Tell your leaders and the wealthy that I expect them to watch a demonstration of our weapons from this wall,” I told him, pointing to the north wall. “While they’re watching, if it’s possible, open the south gate for anybody who wishes to escape the city. You have my word that the escapees won’t be harmed as long as they’re unarmed. If we’re lucky, we might even incapacitate many or most of the troops, as well as the leaders and wealthy men.”

I sent messengers to each of our catapults, and to Flavius, who was in charge of the troops to the south of the city. Sometime later, I could see the north wall lined with people and I moved close enough that they could hear me.

“First, we will demonstrate the range of our catapults using only a rock,” I shouted, having my cornicen signal the ship with Philip aboard. The catapult bucked, making the ship rock front to back several times. It launched one of the concrete practice rounds well beyond the city wall into the city proper. I hoped it didn’t hit an innocent person or anything important.

“Now, our rain of fire,” I shouted, as my cornicen signaled the second catapult from the harbor. They had turned so their payload of napalm flew along the side of the city, exploding about a hundred feet from the wall and raining fire along the ground outside the city wall. Even from where I was, I could see gaping mouths of the spectators, especially among the troops.

“Imagine what will be left of your city after several of those explode inside the walls,” I reminded them.

“Now our cloud,” I shouted, signaling to the catapult closest to the walls. My two catapults had moved closer to the wall while the demonstration was taking place. I stood my ground, trying to look fearless as the amphora flew overhead. I breathed again when it exploded high in the air and well beyond me, about fifty feet from the wall.

Once again, they watched, this time as the cloud swirled closer to them. The nice sea breeze carried it right into the city, engulfing the troops and other observers before they realized the danger they were in. At the same time, the south gates opened and many of the city’s people surged out. Once the cloud had dissipated or settled to the ground, we pushed through the crowds and surged into the city. The few troops who hadn’t been affected quickly surrendered.

We made quick work of rounding up and treating the affected troops and the city leaders, again using buckets of water to wash away the quicklime, trying to minimize their suffering.

I called together the city leaders who had escaped the city to surrender, and who were now waiting to learn the city’s fate. “I want you to show my men where these men lived, and any others who opposed surrendering. They and their families will all be taken as slaves.”

Two of them hurried off, each leading several companies of my men. “Everyone and everything they own is ours, but don’t harm anyone unless they fight,” I ordered.

“Tell everyone else that they may return to the city. As they do, I want every unmarried woman to go to the agora,” I told the third man.

Most of my troops were still north of the city, turned to face towards Pella. Scouts had been dispatched to the north and east to warn us of any troops coming from that direction.

The remainder of my men began looting the docks and the shops around the agora. Others started searching the homes of the wealthy who had cooperated, looking for people hiding or stashed loot, as well as searching the other buildings we usually looted. While they searched the homes of the city’s poor, they were only looking for single women or loot that might have been hidden by the wealthy. The city’s soldiers were shackled aboard our ships to act as oarsmen. This time, I chose first and second from among the single women. Aside from not having blonde hair, one of the girls was a near clone of Claudia, a girl I dated in high school.

Since her mother was a widow, and therefore considered single, I chose the two of them and sent soldiers to help them gather their belongings and the woman’s other four children. “You will both come to my bed, but neither of you will be harmed or mistreated,” I promised. Theodora went with them to help reassure the two women.

There were almost a hundred single women left after the last of my men had chosen, testament to the number of people living in the city. Looting the city took four days and required thirty ships to carry all the slaves and loot that we sent back to Puteoli. I took great pleasure in watching the wealthy men who had refused to surrender shackled among the oarsmen, forced to row their own way to begin their life of slavery. I figured they’d have blisters on their hands before they were out of sight of the city.

That night, I had sex with Cynna, and then her daughter Voloumaga. I even had energy left over for Theodora and then Cynna again.

Day 279

Both women looked at me nervously in the morning when I woke up. One of them was on each shoulder and Theodora was behind Voloumaga. “What’s wrong?” I asked Cynna.

“We don’t know what we should do this morning,” she replied apprehensively.

“I like what you’re doing right now, lying here talking to me. Other than that, what would you have done with your husband?” I asked. She blushed and looked over at her daughter.

“If he treated me like you did last night, I’d want to do it again,” she said quietly, blushing even deeper.

“So would I, and if I didn’t have to make sure everything was proceeding properly, I’d do it again, and then your daughter, and then Theodora,” I chuckled. “Other than that, do whatever you feel needs to be done. I don’t give many orders, and I expect people to do what needs to be done. If you think I didn’t do something I should have, feel free to tell me. I may have a reason, or I may have forgotten. Either way, I’ll never be upset with you for suggesting something to me privately.”

I kissed each woman and gave them a pat on the bare butt before pulling my clothing on. Once I stepped out of the tent, the four dogs jumped up and came over to have their ears scratched.

It’s surprising, but after three months of dressing in civilian clothing back home, my armor had seemed heavier than I remembered the first morning that I was back. Now, I was used to it again. It’s odd how quickly we become used to things. Despite spending most of my life as my old self, I had felt like an outsider the entire time that I was back at home and felt my home was here now. I supposed that it was.

Day 283

After spending the first half of the day wrapping things up and making sure everything we were taking was aboard a ship, I left one of the statues with one of the city’s leaders, complete with an explanation. A dozen merchant ships that were captured at Thessalonike, and thirty additional merchant ships captured by our blockade as they were bound for or leaving the capital of Pella or some other coastal city accompanied the rest of our loot-carrying fleet, headed for Puteoli.

The families of the single women were more reassured now after daily reports from their daughters about their treatment each night.

Then I kissed my three women goodbye and put them aboard one of the captured Macedonian deceres bound for Puteoli. The women protested my sending them away, saying that they wanted to stay with me, but I insisted, telling them that the serious fighting would probably start with Pella, and I didn’t want to have to worry about them. I also made sure that the captain had the note I’d written yesterday on a sheet of vellum. I listed the remaining cities that I intended to raid: Pydna, Dion, Eion, Amphipolis, Philippi, and Abdera. As an afterthought, I added, “I will ask Sparta if they want our help raiding Argos and Corinth. Send troops to the surrendered cities but do not punish or antagonize them further.”

I met with the ship’s captain and his second in command to explain my messages for Celsus, or for Theodocio if he were there. They were to reiterate that the captured cities had all surrendered without fighting and shouldn’t be punished further. They were now Roman cities, although the Senate should consider giving part of the captured territory to our new allies. Theodocio and I had already discussed this and he had finally seen the wisdom of my suggestion.

By giving captured Macedonian border cities and areas to Pergamon, the Aetolian League, and Athens, it would help to allay any fears they had that we intended to expand our conquest to include them, too. Having strong allies surrounding Roman Macedon would require far fewer Roman troops to protect it, costing Rome much less each year while making the former Macedonians less apprehensive about possible abuse.

Our troop transports sailed in the wake of the ships loaded with slaves and loot. I laughed inwardly thinking that Aelius would have to expand the docks in Puteoli even more with the number of the ships we were sending back. Even with the Roman government taking Philip’s captured deceres as payment for everything they had provided us, we would have dozens of ships left to sell or use ourselves. We would probably have to sell most because a law passed more than a decade earlier restricted senators and their sons from owning a ship with more than a three-hundred-amphora capacity. These merchant ships were nearly all larger than that. They’d only be able to keep the smaller ones unless I kept a couple.

We sailed slowly, watching the ships bound for Puteoli pull away from us until they were out of sight near dusk. By then, we were at the mouth of the Loudias River that led inland to Pella.

Day 284

The captain of my flagship knew his way up the River Loudias, and we began rowing our way upriver once the moon rose and we could see where we were going. Well after midnight, we reached the point where the River Loudias flowed from Lake Loudias, a large, shallow, and sometimes swampy lake. While shallow, it was deep enough to navigate, and we quietly made our way towards the city’s port.

Once again, most of the troops debarked quickly, forming into a convex shield around our beached ships as horses and catapults were unloaded. Thanks to extensive training and multiple landings on this campaign, the unloading process went quickly. Two catapult ships and our attack fleet guarded the entrance to the lake to prevent ships from entering or leaving. The other half of our troop transports rowed around the fortified island that was connected to the city via a wooden walkway. They would debark and approach the city from the west while we approached from the east. The remaining ships covered the docks along the south side of the city.

As our ships neared the city’s docks, we counted forty unmanned deceres and dozens of smaller warships anchored offshore. We could use those to carry slaves and loot from the cities I still intended to capture.

Originally, Pella had been the last city I intended to capture. However, from my research during the time when I was back in my original time, the list grew to include six additional wealthy Macedonian cities. Pydna and Amphipolis were important enough that they might consider a challenge for the right to rule Macedon. We had to go through Eion to reach Amphipolis.

Philippi was a strategic city built to control a main trade route, as well as to guard the numerous gold and silver mines in the Pangaion Hills and the gold mines of the nearby area known as Asyla. I hoped to claim all of those mines as my own, or at least split ownership with the Senate.

Abdera and Dion were just wealthy cities without any other strategic value.

Argos and Corinth were part of the Achaean League, allies of Macedon. The only reason the two countries weren’t currently fighting on Macedon’s side was because they were at war with Sparta. If Sparta agreed to our intervention, we’d attack the Achaean League’s capital of Argos, and then the important city of Corinth. Capturing those two cities would break the back of the Achaean League’s attack.

In addition to great riches from the conquest of the cities, the victory should draw Sparta as a staunch ally of Rome.

As the earliest rays of the sun began lightening the sky, it was clear that our arrival hadn’t gone unnoticed. Uniformed troops lined the city’s walls. Well, fuck me. If they knew we were here and already had their troops turned out...

“Signal the ambush warning,” I told my first cornicen. One cornicen had a long horn whose notes carried long distances. The other used a higher-pitched horn. Since both men also carried a bow and a sword, I couldn’t see having one man carrying both horns. One horn was unwieldy enough on a horse, plus there were times when both horns were needed.

“When he finishes, alert company five and six,” I told the second cornicen. “Have them reinforce company four.” The second cornicen could only get the attention of companies five and six. One of my two flagmen would have to direct them where to go. One flagman was to direct troop movements while the other used different colored flags to direct our catapults.

Once the warning had been sounded, starting with the man closest to me, every other man turned to face away from the city in case the Macedonians attacked from behind us. Our ships were already moving away from the docks and the shore. If Macedonian warships managed to sneak in behind them, our ships needed to be underway to have any chance of defending themselves. Unfortunately, the Macedonian ships would still have the home field advantage in the shallow lake, knowing its idiosyncrasies from experience. Half of the catapults were starting to move, creaking, and groaning in protest as they did. I rode over to catapult one, which still faced the city.

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