When in Rome - Cover

When in Rome

Copyright© 2023 by FantasyLover

Chapter 6

Theodocio asked if I really thought I’d be able to start the search for the mine sites on Sardinia in six weeks. I assured him that I thought we would have a good start on the latifundium by then, and I could leave instructions about anything else I wanted done while I was gone.

Then I told him about the dream I’d had the night before we left. “In six months, or a little more, I will need two thousand archers trained with the new bow and new saddle, as well as with the longer sword and a lance. While a Roman force is landing in Illyria, Philip V of Macedon will storm the city of Abydos in Pergamum. The men of Pergamum will kill their wives and children and fight to the last man rather than face the cruelties that Philip will visit on them.

“If I sail there with two thousand men, not only can I capture his fleet and most of his troops, but I may also be able to kill or capture Philip himself. That will make the conquest of Macedon easier. Once we conquer Macedon, if Rome gives small parts of Macedon to our new allies of Athens, Rhodes, Pergamon, and the Aetolian League, it will go a long way towards cementing a long-lasting alliance and removing any concern they might have about Rome owning territory in their midst that could make us be seen as a threat in the future.

“It should also draw Sparta to us, asking for our help against the Achaean League. Defeating the Achaean League will make Sparta a strong ally and give us even more territory. Greece is a wealthy land. Owning part of it surrounded by strong allies will require Rome to keep far fewer troops there to protect the territory.

“If any members of the Senate are unsure about joining the war against Macedon, remind them that Philip plans to attack Ptolemy because he senses weakness there. If he succeeds, Macedon will be larger and stronger with even more soldiers available. Whom will he attack then? How long will it be before he feels strong enough to see Rome as vulnerable to attack, especially since we’re still recovering from the war with Carthage?

“If we are authorized to do this as mercenaries, we will be able to keep most of what we loot and won’t have to deal with the Senate second-guessing everything and possibly changing their mind in the middle of our expedition. Imagine what Philip’s fleet will be worth when we sell it to Rome. Even the value of the fleet will be less than what we will loot from Macedonian cities that we capture. And how much will we receive for the slaves we take?” I asked.

“You are sure that you can do this?” Theodocio asked, his concern evident on his face and in his voice.

“Having just become fabulously wealthy and being poised to become even wealthier, there is little that could compel me to voluntarily go into battle unless Rome was directly threatened,” I replied.

“However, when a Goddess with the power that brought me here requests me to do just that and provides me with invaluable information about where the enemy will be and how many troops they will have, I’m willing to do it, especially since you and Celsus will gain much prestige and Rome will gain much new territory and several new valuable allies,” I replied.

“We’ll need about a hundred ships for the attack, so maybe part of our price for the ten deposits on Sardinia that we sell Rome should be the use of as many triremes as we need late this summer to carry our troops and horses. Maybe we can talk Pergamum into supplying a thousand horses for our troops. If we defeat Philip and save Abydos, we’d get to keep the horses as payment,” I suggested.

“That would be an inexpensive way to gain a thousand horses,” Theodocio commented thoughtfully. I knew that Theodocio had a lot to think about, so I left it at that. He would need to figure out a way to convince the Senate to give us permission to directly aid Pergamum with mercenary troops, as well as to find and equip two thousand men. Their training could begin while I was in Sardinia.

The sixteen men who went with me to find the coal and salt deposits had continued their daily workouts once we returned. Each man could train a group of a hundred or more new recruits, perhaps even having weekly competitions of some sort between groups.

Day 105

We were in luck. A ship docked late yesterday and was still looking for cargo before it returned to the south. Between the slaves, the tools, and the lumber and nails Theodocio was able to find, we would be sailing right after sunup. Theodocio let Severus know. I made three last minute purchases after Theodocio directed me to the people I needed to see.

The first was a blacksmith who specialized in carpentry tools. He had all kinds of tools available but what I bought were two, six-foot, two-man crosscut saws, mainly for cutting down trees and cutting them to the length we needed. I also bought four, eight-foot two-man ripsaws for cutting the logs into boards. I knew we would eventually outgrow the availability of pre-cut lumber in our area and would have to supply our own.

After buying the saws he had available, I paid him to make more of both types of saws with instructions to deliver them to Theodocio when they were finished.

My second purchase was very inexpensive because it had been used. It was a large, ceramic amphora quadrantal (about seven gallons, one designed to transport wine. The wine merchant was happy to sell it since they were normally broken up after use, and the shards thrown onto a growing heap of broken ceramic just outside the city. I bought two hundred of them to start, directing them to be delivered to Theodocio’s home.

By buying used ones, I paid next to nothing. Even with having to pay to ship the empty amphorae to Puteoli, they were less than a quarter of the cost of new ones.

The final purchase was ten huge bundles of cork bark. I knew it was available because I’d seen bottles and urns closed with cork but had never found any offered in the forums near home. The seller assured me that he could have more in five or six weeks, and I asked him to sell Theodocio at least a hundred more bundles like the ones I just bought. I gave him most of my remaining money as a deposit and warned Theodocio about the paid-for saws and amphorae, and about the cork that was only partially paid for.

Theodocio was curious about the cork, and I explained that some would be for stoppers and some to make special jackets for people who couldn’t swim, explaining how the cork-filled jackets would keep people afloat. His jaw dropped at the simple yet remarkable idea.

Thinking ahead, I asked Theodocio a question that evening. “Where do shipbuilders buy the tar they use to coat the hulls?”

“There are several places, depending on where you are. The one closest to you is about eight to ten leagues north of Neapolis. It’s probably where your man Janus purchases the tar used on your crates,” he replied.

“Duuuuuhhhhh,” I thought to myself, having forgotten that Janus was already using some.

“Can you find a siege engineer?” I asked. “I need someone to design a catapult for me and men to help build it and then others, as well as to practice using them, especially aboard a ship so they are used to timing the movements of the ship and their target.”

I also needed to see how thick the walls of the amphorae had to be to keep from shattering when launched from a catapult but wasn’t ready to disclose that until I had the new ammunition ready. Damn, but I had a lot of tasks to accomplish in a short time.

“I can do that, as well as finding you a ship to practice from,” he replied, grinning. “More of your plan to defeat Philip?”

“Possibly, but all I need for that are archers, horses, and ships. This is for capturing the rest of Macedon after we capture Philip. I have some ideas for special projectiles that can be launched by a catapult to help against large concentrations of troops or walled cities,” I replied.

Memories from my slightly delinquent childhood had returned to me in my dreams. Fortunately, nobody that I was aware of knew about that part of my life. I hadn’t forgotten that part, but I’d forgotten until now some of the crucial details necessary for it to be of use to me.

Day 106

Our entire troupe left the house well before dawn to board the ship. Theodocio had two carts ready to carry Antia, as well as Severus’s wife and their sleepy children. The food, wine, boiled water, and my purchases had already been loaded into the carts. Theodocio nodded his approval when I wore my toga and Antia wore her stola, although I warned him that my toga would be put aside once I returned home. What I had to do in a short time would ruin most clothing. He still found the pants and shirts that I had the women make for me to be humorous, although he liked the idea of pockets.

The wives and children of the farmers would remain in Rome as Theodocio’s guests for two weeks to give us a chance to arrange some sort of basic housing. The large pavilion tents that Theodocio sent with us would probably have to do for quite a while. He promised to send more, and I’d buy what I could find in the local forums.

With little else to do during the sea voyage, I explained to the farmers and slaves both my immediate and long-term goals for the latifundia. They were dumbfounded that I owned thirty saltii of land, ten which was for the farmers. They also agreed that my idea for them to work together cooperatively made great sense. They would be able to produce much more by doing it that way than if each family tried to do everything necessary to provide for their own needs.

Day 107

It was mid-afternoon by the time we docked in Puteoli. I found two men with carts and hired them to drive the women and children home, as well as our belongings. Drivers of several more carts eagerly agreed to take my purchases to the pozzolana quarry, along with the lumber and other supplies the Captain had brought. I hitched a ride with one of the carts on the way to the quarry. Once there, I paid the captain for the supplies and paid the men driving the carts with money Janus had available.

The place was hopping. Even this late in the day, there were well over a hundred men and women still working. The carts that brought the supplies from the harbor returned to the ship with crates of pozzolana and pavers.

I explained to Janus about the logging saws, and he nodded knowingly. I suggested that he hire more men and have two of their current groups start logging. They could either dig sawpits where the trees were cut down or bring the logs back here to be sawn into boards.

I also asked him to set aside two large buckets of the tar for me, explaining that I had an unrelated project I was working on.

Two of Celsus’s guards arrived at the quarry with Boots and orders to escort me home when I was ready to go. I made a quick trip back to the Puteoli forum and found someone selling ceramic pottery. I asked about making small, amphora-like pots, drawing him a diagram of the shape I wanted, as well as how thick I wanted the sides, and how small I wanted the opening at the top to be. To me, they looked a bit like hip flasks, concave on one side to glue onto the larger amphorae. He agreed to make them, and I paid in advance for ten of them, telling him to send them to the pozzolana quarry or Celsus’s villa.

I found a tent maker and told him that I would need every large pavilion-style tent that he could produce or procure to help hold a hundred families that would be arriving from Rome in two weeks.

“You are now well-known in your own right,” one of the guards commented after watching the way both merchants treated me. “Your pozzolana business and your wrestling are widely known. Everyone knows that you have hired nearly all the widows and unemployed men in the area, and people have noticed the saddles that everyone from Celsus’s estate uses. People are talking excitedly about you acquiring so much land, wondering what new things you will come up with. You are almost as well-known and respected as Celsus and Theodocio and have done it in a very short time.”

With my shopping done, I headed home with my two shadows. I explained to the two men how I hoped to find and train two thousand troops and hoped they and their fellow guards would help train them for me since I would be gone part of the time and very busy most of the rest of the time. “I intend to call them the Roman Marine Corps First Battalion, an elite group of soldiers more highly trained than the troops of other countries. I have even more things to show you than what we already did,” I told them. They seemed excited at the prospect and the challenge.

“We have already begun training more men for Celsus. He knows that you will soon need your own guards. With all your property and business interests, he plans a hundred guards for you to start. You will probably want at least two hundred, though,” he mused aloud.

Once the women at home released me after greeting me, I went to see Celsus, who was extremely excited. “You would have been so proud if you had been there,” he gushed. “The morning that you left for Rome, two emissaries from the cities of Gaeta and Formiae arrived to talk to you about starting the wrestling in their cities.

“I agreed to go with them the next day to help set up the wrestling. I wanted to take one of the women with us to talk to widows in the forums but didn’t want to take a cart to slow us down. Your Marilla learned to ride in Iberia and suggested that we dress her like one of the guards so she could ride with us.

“We left early the next morning. The two emissaries each had four guards. I took all sixteen men that you trained and had Marilla dressed as another guard. Shortly after midday, twenty-three bandits armed with bows accosted us. Eight of your guards were in the front and eight in the rear. The eight guards in the front charged them with their lances lowered. Seeing the lances and the charging horses, the bandits tried to jump out of the way, but the lances still killed eight of them and the horses trampled another five.

“The guards spun their horses and attacked the disoriented bandits with their swords, killing nine more. The guards at the rear had used their new bows and when one of the bandits ran, he ended up with nine arrows in his body. The biggest surprise was that the ninth arrow came from your Marilla using one of the old-style bows.

“The men from Gaeta and Formiae couldn’t believe what they saw. Seeing the guards in the rear of our column standing while they used their bows from horseback left them speechless, as did the way the men in the front spun their horses without falling off.

“I couldn’t believe that the guards you only trained for a month were now more accomplished warriors than the Equestrians I rode with against Hannibal. One of them told us that you attacked a bandit who had a bow with an arrow already nocked and used just your horse, knocking the bandit down and pulling your horse up so that it reared, leaving you standing in the stirrups.

“The men from Gaeta and Formiae were so impressed that they plan to report to Rome about their performance,” he bragged.

“They will start wrestling there, too, and agreed to send you one quarter of their profits. The two men heard about the wrestling from ship’s captains that saw it here. The father of the man from Gaeta is a Senator and talked about the wrestling in Rome. The men decided to ask us how we started and how we ran everything. They plan to have wrestling daily in Gaeta and Formiae because the cities are large enough. They will also schedule matches every second day in other nearby towns. Your wrestling idea is expanding quickly and will soon reach everywhere from here to Rome,” he said excitedly.

That gave me an opening to tell him about the possible troop training we’d be doing, as well as the new ammunition I intended to develop for catapults, although I didn’t tell him what the ammunition would be. He was stunned at the scope of my plan but admitted that it should work. I asked him to send his man back to Damascus, or even to Egypt or farther east if he could. I wanted as much cotton cloth as he could buy to make cotton uniforms for three thousand men. The man could also check on the status of the order he had placed for the Wootz steel ingots.

Finally, I had two more plants I wanted him to bring back if possible. I showed him a stem of grass that grew here. “What I want looks like this but grows taller than a man and the stems are thicker than a man’s thumb. When chewed, the stem has a sweet taste like honey.”

I went on to explain that I needed at least twenty root clusters, more if possible. The roots would need to be kept damp all the way here by packing them in wet sand or sawdust. I also wanted an orange-colored fruit that was filled with sweet juice when it was ripe, or at least the seeds for them. Our sword maker from Damascus understood what I wanted and assured me that both were available in Damascus. I had spoken with him when I first returned home and immediately knew what both items were called in Damascus.

Celsus was excited about my enthusiastic plans, especially if the Senate gave us permission for the attack against Philip of Macedon and then Macedon itself. The sale of captured slaves and ships would bring us a tremendous amount, as well as anything else we looted from Macedonian cities we captured. He also offered the use of several pavilion style tents he had acquired during his military service in the recent Punic War.

Dinner was ready at home. During dinner, Caelia reviewed my finances. Money continued to pour in. The pozzolana quarry was extremely busy and business continued to grow. They even assigned several men to quarry pozzolana just for the concrete pavers, although they helped if needed to fill a huge order for crates of pozzolana.

They had completed the new road to the quarry that I had suggested. I’d seen it today and it served as both advertising and solved the problem of mud when it rained. Now that they knew the necessary ratio of pavers to edge stones for a standard Roman military road, they packed the short crates of pavers with the appropriate number of edge stones. They also began making half-pavers to use when the offset rows required half a paver at each edge. Sales of the pavers were climbing steadily, outstripping their ability to make them. They kept hiring new people, trying to catch up with demand, only to watch the demand continue skyrocketing.

Several times a week, a ship arrived and bought pozzolana and pavers. Even demand for the empty crates was growing. Ships that stopped here frequently knew that we would buy all the wood, nails, and rope they could carry so they scoured other ports for them, which helped us keep up with demand and simplified the captain’s life since he didn’t need to search for as much other cargo.

The wrestling continued to do well. A month ago, Laurentius had expanded the wrestling northeast to Capua and Beneventum. Both were major cities on the Via Appia, ancient Rome’s version of a superhighway, as well as several smaller cities in the area. His monthly payments to us had more than doubled. She reiterated what Celsus had told me earlier about the two men from Gaeta and Formiae starting the wrestling there and in the surrounding area. I should see additional income from that in a few weeks.

I was barely given time to eat before I was dragged to bed where I was loved on until little Quintus was no longer able to rise to the occasion.

Day 108

I was awake very early this morning, excited about all the new projects that I had to work on. The ammunition for the catapults would have to wait until I had the necessary raw materials and had the plans for my latifundia fully communicated to both Severus and the one hundred farmers.

I spent the morning riding around my latifundium, doing a brief survey with Severus and six of the farmers from Rome. I had a rough sketch of what I wanted on a goatskin parchment. I pointed out each of the different areas, including all the craters. They weren’t aware that volcanic soil was much more fertile than regular soil so it would be a major change for them.

I pointed out which slopes I wanted covered with olives, grapes, and apples, as well as the new cherry, apricot, and peach trees. Then I showed them where to plant cotton and rice, and then hemp and alfalfa. I’d already pointed out the field for tomatoes, which would be a small one this year. My villa would be built near Lake Avernus, and I would build four separate villae rustica. Two would be near the pozzolana quarry for the workers there. They would include stables for the mules that pulled the carts and coops for chickens to provide meat and eggs.

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