As a youth, Insubrecus was caught between two worlds. He lived in the mythical tales told to him by his grandfather about the heroic past of his people, the Gah’el. However, his mother, Valeria, was determined to make a practical and successful Roman gentlemen out of him. On top of all this, he fell in love with Gabinia, the beautiful daughter of a Roman Senator, whose family was determined to kill him to uphold their honor.
Insubrecus tries to escape the assassins sent after him from Rome by hiding in the Roman army, right at the time that the new governor, Gaius Iulius Caesar, launches his legions into the forests of Gaul to stop an invasion by a fierce and ruthless tribe called the Helvetii. Insubrecus is plunged into a world of violence, intrigue and betrayal, as he tries to serve his new patron, Caesar, and to stay alive, while pursued by Roman cutthroats and Gallic warriors.
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Post Scriptum A Glossary of Latin Terms Used in the Story
I. Quomodo Civitem Romanam Familia Mea Acquisit
HOW MY FAMILY BECAME ROMANS
My life can be divided into three stages: youth, maturity, and old age. Youth is the time before I joined the legions; maturity, while I served in the legions; and now that I have retired from the legions, old age.
When I was a kid, my grandfather called me Arth Bek, which means "Little Bear" in the language of our people, the Gah'el, whom the Romans call Galli and the Greeks, hoi Keltoi. Grandfather said when I was an infant and wanted attention, I screamed like a little warrior, so he named me after a mythical hero-king of our people, Arth Mawr, the "Great Bear." I suspect the name had more to do with my being somewhat swarthy — thick-built, short-legged, and barrel-chested, like a little bear — than any noises I made as a squeaker.
My grandfather was the first Roman citizen in our family. When he was a youth, the Krauts came storming down from the North and rampaged by the thousands through the Roman Provincia up in Gallia Transalpina, Gaul-Over-The-Alps. They slaughtered more Romans than Hannibal, plus a couple of consuls for good measure — not that our people cared much about dead Romans.
A new Roman consul, Gaius Marius, was raising troops in our lands in the Padus Valley to fight those piss-headed cunni. My grandfather, who fancied himself a warrior-hero of the fianna, the ancient Gallic war bands, joined the Roman army. Since he wasn't a Roman citizen, he enlisted in one of the local auxiliary units, the Cohors Prima Gallica, the First Gallic Cohort. Like most auxiliary units, the First Gallic was a mix of infantry and cavalry.
My grandfather's Gallic name was Cunorud, which he explained meant either "Red Dog" or "The King's Hound," depending on how much beer he had in him. His Latin-speaking mates, who couldn't pronounce that "tongue-twisting Gallic shit," called him Cura, Trouble. My grandfather hated the name, but tended to prove it accurate.
He got himself assigned to one of the cavalry wings, alae the Romans call them. Gran'pa claimed he cut quite a dashing figure with his mustachios reaching down past his chin; his spatha, a long Gallic cavalry sword, hanging at his side; and a jaunty brass helmet, polished like a mirror and sporting a crimson plume, on his head. He rode a huge, snorting black stallion. As he put it, riding was always better than slogging in the mud with the muli, the infantry grunts. Besides, if things got really bad, he could make a quick exit, and once he did, he always knew exactly where his next meal was.
The First Gallic marched over the Alps with Marius and wrecked the Germans at a place the Romans call Aquae Sextiae. But, a bunch of Krauts got around the flank of the Roman army, through the Alps and down into our lands, which the Romans call Gallia Cisalpina, Gaul-This-Side-Of-The-Alps. Marius caught up with them near a town called Vercellae and didn't leave enough of those mentulae, those pricks, alive — man, woman or child — to stage a gladiator show in an outhouse.
What happened near Vercellae is family legend.
As best I remember the story — only having heard it a few dozen times before I assumed my toga virilis — my gran'pa, after a few bowls of beer with his cronies, told it like this:
Before the Battle of Vercellae, me and me mates are sent out to reconnoiter the Kraut positions. Marius, the chief, likes to see things for himself, so he goes along for the ride. We're strung out in a file below a wooded ridgeline. We're trying to keep high ground between us and where we think them piss-headed mentulae are at. We're moving through a narrow place, between the edge of the woods and some marshes, when them hairy-faced cunni bust out of the trees right on top of us.
We're thinkin' we're perfututi as the Roman boys say, absolutely screwed. We have them marshes at our backs and them Krauts chargin' down the ridge at us from them woods. We freeze, but one of me mates yells out, "What you waitin' for, boys? We got those sheep-shaggin', piss-headed podices, those arses, right where we wants 'em! Let's go chop them bastards!"
So we pull out our swords and charge up the ridge right into 'em.
The chief's pretty ballsy for a toga-boy, and he goes right in with us. We hit them Krauts like a battering ram and pretty much knock 'em back into the woods. I'm feelin' now's the time to make our break. Then I sees the chief all tangled up with a bunch of them bastards, but he's waving around one of them little Roman infantry swords, gladius they calls 'em. The only way he's goin' to kill a Kraut from a horse with one of them little Roman pig-stickers is if the Kraut laughs himself to death. He can't even reach 'em with the thing.
I thinks, Just like a Roman to bring a knife to a sword fight. But, he's our chief, even if he scrapes his face so's it looks like a girl's ass. So I turns me horse and charges into the bastards and gets between them and the chief.
"Get your ass outta here, Chief!" I yells over to him. "Leave the Krautchoppin' to us guys with grown-up swords."
Next thing I know, one of them German verpae, pricks, grabs me belt and pulls me down off me horse. Now there's nothin' that'll piss a cavalryman off more than to have some ground-poundin', sheep-shaggin' podex pull him off his horse, and them shits never dealt with a pissed-off Gah'el before. I hits the ground and rolls to me feet and starts choppin' and stabbin' in every direction. Pretty soon I gets three or four of the bastards on the ground, and the rest of them piss-haired cunni don't want to get anywhere near me. I looks up, and there's the chief with me horse.
"Mount up, Trooper!" says he. "Time to get our arses outta here."
Well, I jumps up on me horse, and me and the chief tear ass down that ridge before them Krauts can figure out what hit 'em. When we catch up with the rest of the boys, the chief says to me, "A Roman doesn't forget his obligations, Trooper Cura, and I will not forget mine to you."
While I'm still reelin' at his calling me "Cura," he grabs me right arm in one of them Roman handshakes. Then he rides up our column to the head of our troop.
Well, I don't think too much of it, what with the battle and all, but a couple days later, after we have pretty much cleaned up all the shit, one of the chief's fancy-boy tribunes, a broad-striper no less, comes down to where we're set up. I watches him dance through the mud and horse shit around our horse lines so's he won't ruin the shine on his fancy boots. He grabs hold of one of our Decurions, who points me out.
"Twooper Cuwa?" he asks in that thin-lipped, upper-class Roman lisp all them toga-boys from Roma use.
I comes to attention, like I should, and says, "That's what I'm called, sir!"
"Twooper Cuwa, Gaius Mawius, Consul of the Woman People, Impewator, Savior of the Nation" — them Romans lay it on thick, makes 'em feel good about themselves — "Commands you to weport to the Pwefect, Quintus Antonius, Commander of the Pwaetorian Cohort, at the Pwincipia immediately."
With that, the purple-striped fuzz-face turns about, dances back through the piles of horseshit, and heads off in the direction of the Roman camps.
Well, I'm all covered in shit from horse stables, and I smells so good that some of the stallions are starting to give me the eye, but the little gob-shite said immediately. So, I throws me lorica and helmet on, throws me sword belt over me shoulders, washes most of the big clods of shit off me boots with a bucket of water, and heads over to where the legions are set up.
Now them legion boys is somethin' in the field. There's an old joke about this mulus, a legionary grunt, who's marching across a field — sixty paces a minute, three feet a pace — when he runs into this beautiful shepherdess. Well, she invites him for a go and takes off her clothes. The Roman halts, pulls out his entrenching tool, digs a trench and a parapet around her, pops her, fills in the trench, and continues the march. The camps them boys build are better than most towns I've seen: ditches, parapets, and streets laid out in straight lines; tents all in neat rows; a place for everything, and everything in its place.
I goes through the main gate of the camp like I owns the place. I knows the sergeant of the guard's thinkin' about busting me balls a bit, but after he gets a whiff of me, he just waves me through after I gives him the password. I walks down the street to the Principia, the headquarters. It's in a big tent where the two main streets of the camp cross, like it always is. I asks the sentry where the boss of the Praetorians is, il' capu', "the boss," they calls him. The grunt points to a smaller tent next to the Principia. I walks into the tent and sees this Roman officer chewing on some poor snuffy.
"And, if you ever show up for one of my goddamn inspections with your kit looking like shit again, I'll slice off your balls with a rusty knife and hang them around your goddamned neck! Do you understand me, Soldier?"
"What was that, Soldier?"
"Two weeks latrine duty! Now get your sorry ass out of my sight!"
The legionary shoots out of the tent like he's launched from a ballista.
Then the officer notices me. "What in the stinking latrines of Hades do you want, Trooper?"
I snap to.
"Sir! Trooper Cura reporting as ordered, sir!"
"Cura? Cura? Let's see here ..." The officer shuffles through some tabulae, wax slates, on his desk. "Oh, right! You're the Gaul the old man wants ... By Hercules' balls, Cura! What in the name of Hecate did you do? Crawl through a stable on your way here?"
"Sir! The tribune said report immediately, sir!"
"Cacat! Shit! Next time, take some time to at least throw yourself in a stream. You a Gaul, Cura?"
"What's your real name?"
"My real name, sir?"
"Come on, Cura. No Gallic father's going to name his kid Trouble! What's your real name?"
"Uh, back home, I'm called Cunorud, sir!"
"Cunorud, eh? Red Dog ... Canis Ruber ... I like that. A red dog that smells like a mare in heat! You live long enough, you see everything in this army. Bene, Trooper Red Dog, effective immediately, you are assigned to the old man's praetorian cohort. What is it, Trooper?"
"Sir! I'm not a Roman citizen."
"Really? You want to march over to the Praetorium and tell the old man his mind is defututa ... totally clapped out?"
"Uh, no, sir!"
"Me neither. Now — with your permission, of course — let me get through this: You are assigned to the third cavalry wing of the praetorian cohort with the rank of trooper. You will turn in your kit to your old unit ... let's see ... the First Gallic, and you will draw a new kit with us. Bring your mount with you. By the way you smell, I think you already did. While in the praetorian cohort, you will have immune status from all fatigues and work details. Your rate of pay is six hundred seventy-five denarii a year — that's triple the standard legionary rate. Get your pay records from your standardbearer and turn them into the standardbearer of the praetorian ala. Any questions, Trooper Red Dog?"
"Bene!" He shoves one of them slates toward me. "You have to be enlisted into the Roman army. Can you write, Trooper?"
"Write, sir? No, sir!"
"It bloody-well figures. Scriba!"
A Roman soldier armed with a slate and stylus comes from the back of the tent.
"Witness this, Soldier! Trooper, you have a clan mark?"
"Mark the slate there! Now stand at attention, raise your right hand. That's the one your sword goes in, not your prick. Raise your palm toward the sky, and repeat after me."
I assumes the position.
"I ... state your real name."
"I, Cunorud mab Cunomaro, of the Glasso clan, of the Anderica band, of the Insubreci tribe, do solemnly swear by Father Iove, greatest and all-powerful, whose eagle I now follow, and by all the gods, that I will defend and serve the Roman nation. I will obey the will of the senate, the people of Rome, and the officers empowered by the senate over me and my general, Gaius Marius. I swear that I am a free man, able to take this oath, and obligated by bond or debt to no Roman. I will remain faithful to the senate and the Roman nation, to the officers empowered over me, and to the army of Rome until I am legally discharged by my time of service, by the will of the senate and People of Rome, or by my death. I offer my life as the surety of my oath."
"Bene, Trooper! First, the good news! You are now privileged to be a Roman soldier for the next three years. Now the other news: I am Prefect Quintus Antonius, commander of Gaius Marius' praetorian cohort, and until the crows come to chew on your rotting carcass or the army sees fit to discharge you, your sorry ass belongs to me. If I ever see you in this horse-shit condition again, I will personally skin you down to the bone and feed your fat to the camp dogs! Do you understand me, Trooper?"
"Sir! Yes, sir!"
"Not only are you now a Roman soldier, the sight of which alone makes Parthians drop their perfume bottles and longhaired Gauls soil their plaid trousers, you are a praetorian. On the battlefield, you will be the baddest pedicor who ever sucked his mother's teat and swung a sword. In garrison, you will shine so bright that when you show up, everyone will think the heavens have opened and Mars himself has come down to pay some nymph a visit! I want your shit so tight that I couldn't drive a greased dagger up your ass with a sledge hammer. Am I clear to you, soldier?"
"Sir! Yes, sir!"
"The first thing you're going to do is get your sorry ass over to the bathhouse and scrape the dirt and horse shit off your sorry carcass. Then find the barber and get that bush on top of your head cut down to regulation. And make sure he gets rid of those Gallic horse tails growing under your nose. You following me, Trooper?"
"Sir! Yes, sir!"
I just stands there.
"I said, 'miss' est,' Trooper, post! That's army talk for 'get your horse-shit-smelling ass out of my sight'!"
I shoots out of the tent like I'm launched out of a ballista.
So begins my grand and glorious career in the Roman army.
In wartime, the army tries to kill you with steel. In peacetime, it tries to kill you with chicken shit. When the fighting's done, the army spends most of its time at war with its own equipment.
Now, as far as fighting goes, the Roman kit is a lot better than the shit they stick us with in the auxiliary units. The Roman lorica is made of chainmail with extra armor over the shoulders, instead of the boiled leather crap I wore in the First Gallic. The stuff's great when you get slashed at, but won't do much for you when some podex tries to put the point to you. The Roman helmets are steel, not bronze, so they turn a slashing blow, instead of adding shards of bronze to the iron sword that splits your skull open.
But, that Roman iron crap rusts if you as much as look at it.
In peacetime, the primary job of the praetorian cavalry is prancing around a parade field, looking fierce and shiny when the chief wants to be entertained. So our horses' rigs are covered with shiny bronze and iron gewgaws that catch the sun when we ride. All of that shit — all of it — loves to rust and mold.
So, my main job is to scrub and scrape the rust off Roman steel. Me hands are as red and raw as a housewife's. And il' capu', our prefect, may the Furies drag his boney ass off to Tartarus, can find a speck of rust in a steel forest. So, when I'm not scraping and shining, I'm double-timing around the outside of the camp ditch, holding me kit over me head, apologizing to it for not taking care of it proper — much to the amusement of the muli on guard duty.
The guys in me ala turn out to be okay. I'm a little nervous at first, being a Gah'el, but most of the guys in the unit aren't real Romans either. We have guys from both Gauls, even a few who grew up among the long-haired Gah'ela north of the Rodonu, the river the Romans call Rhodanus.
I'm surprised to find out the guys from Hispania are Gah'el too, but I can hardly understand what they're saying, especially when they get excited about something and start flappin' their hands around.
Even the Italian and Roman boys are okay. The Italians are mostly hicks, pagani, farm boys. But, they're good riders and know a lot about takin' care of the horses. The guys from Rome are funny. Most of them grew up in the slums, the subura they calls it. Most of them never even seen a horse except on a dinner plate or had their own boots until they joined the army. They got into the cavalry because they hated all the humping and digging the infantry did, but they still gets a bit nervous around the horses. We Gah'el and the Spani — that's what we calls the guys from Hispania — take bets on which of them Roman guttersnipes is going to screw up and fall off his horse during parade first.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Gabinian Affair"
Copyright © 2016 Ray Gleason.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Dramatis Personae ix
De Qua Causa Scribo Praefatio xiii
A Preface on Why I Write
I Quomodo Civitem Romanam Familia Mea Acquisit 1
How My Family Became Romans
II De Avo Meo ac Terra luventis 23
Gran'pa and the Land of Youth
III De Mama Mea, Qua Muliere Romana Feroce 34
My Mama, a Formidable Woman of Rome
IV De Doctrina Romana 49
My Education as a Roman-and a Few Other Things
V De Amice Novo 64
A New Friend
VI De Natale Sexto Decimo 75
I Turn Sixteen and Learn a Trade
VII Inter Iliadem et Lupinarium 99
Between the Iliad and the Brothel: My Final Lessons in Being Roman
VIII De Fine Pueritiae 138
My Childhood Ends
IX De Itinere Frigido 176
A Cold Journey
Post Scriptum 187
A Glossary of Latin Terms Used in the Story 189