The Trumpets of Mars
Copyright© 2022 by Lumpy
Ky arrived at the colosseum the next morning to find it ringed with legionnaires, Praetorian Guards, and even a good number of Picts. The men guarding the arena looked serious, which was understandable considering the reason they had to be there at all.
With the forum too badly damaged to actually use safely, there weren’t a lot of options for hosting a meeting of this size. The Emperor had made it clear in the messages he’d sent out the night before, at Ky’s urging, that this invitation was not optional. Rome had undergone its most serious event since being pushed out of Londinium and now, more than ever, the fate of the Empire was in question.
Ky made it inside the Emperor’s box which held, besides the Emperor, Lucilla and Ramirus. Everyone else, even those loyal advisors who’d often spectate with the Emperor, were instead gathered on the floor of the arena below.
Stools had been set out and the covering screens, used to protect the stands from very hot days, strung up to offer some amount of shade, but the symbolism of where they were and what had happened here the day before was not lost on anyone in attendance. The blood-soaked sand had been raked up and new sand laid in its place, but the smell of that many deaths still lingered in the air, along with the acrid smoke that had only recently stopped pouring out of the buildings around the palace complex.
In attendance were those senators that hadn’t been on the floor of the arena the day before, all of the legates that still lived, along with their major officers, Llassar and those of his Picts who’d been chosen among their comrades to lead them, and the leading business, religious and social figures of Rome. Aside from the Picts, whose presence was still an oddity to most of the Romans, these were the people who saw to the fate of the Empire and who would be the ones doing the actual work of repairing the scars of the uprising.
“My friends,” the Emperor said, standing up and looking down on the gathered mass. “I’m sure you’ve noticed there are no spectators in the stands and have recognized the commonality of those of you gathered together today. We aren’t here to make grand speeches or present another public spectacle like the one that happened here yesterday. The time for grandstanding is over. We have a lot of challenges before us and we have lost a lot of the tools we should have had to meet those challenges thanks to the greed and ambition of men too small for the responsibilities they’d been asked to meet. Today marks the first day of a new Rome. Rome is now part of a larger world, a member of an alliance that extends beyond ourselves. For now, it includes only our Caledonii neighbors to the north, but hopefully, one day will include more peoples who share our vision for the future of not just Britannia, but the whole world.”
Ky suppressed a grimace at that last statement. Romans still saw Europe and the Mediterranean region as all of known civilization, despite at least passing awareness of cultures further to the east. It was probably easier for them, since they had once controlled some of this Mediterranean and could see themselves as one day reclaiming it, making them masters of all of civilization. If they had to acknowledge ‘barbarian’ cultures to the east, they could no longer call themselves masters of the world.
“I know some of you have heard of the agreements we made with the Caledonii, but we are here to make those official and explain how that will affect Rome going forward. I want to be clear. This isn’t a negotiation and we are not taking a vote. I respect the Senate and the will of the people, but the time for allowing men to bicker while our future is in question, is over. That time died with Silo and his traitors. Ky?” he said, nodding towards Ky.
A rustling of voices below spoke to how much that statement shook the gathered men, especially the senators, many of whom had formed the coalition that had allowed Ky to get his anti-slavery and taxation laws in place.
At the Emperor’s prompt, Ky said, “First, Rome will remain as it is. The Senate will remain, as it has been since the founding of Rome, and it will continue to work with the Emperor, as it always has. All of the laws that were in effect for Rome will continue to remain in effect in Roman territory, which will cover the same lands it currently does, to the same northern border that has existed for more than a hundred years. When we push the Carthaginians out of Londinium and off of Britannia, Rome’s borders will extend to the southern end of the Empire. Although the Caledonii are partially made up of tribes that were forced out of this land, they have agreed to forgo all rights to any part of Britannia south of the current border.”
Ky had discussed with the Emperor how to present this to the Romans, specifically how to frame the land currently held by the Carthaginians. Ky preferred to be more realistic, since they still had many challenges to surpass before the southern half of the island was once again in Roman hands, but the Emperor believed that any suggestion that Rome might not be victorious would sound like defeatism to some parties. Even with Silo and his allies gone, there would still be difficult days of coordinating any more changes needed. Their alliance against Silo’s faction had only barely held and many of his supporters had not taken an active part in the rebellion and were still being allowed to retain their position in the Senate. Ky had argued, and the Emperor agreed, that they would not punish people solely on their associations, although Ramirus had been more than a little skeptical on that part.
“The same will be true of the Caledonii. They will continue to exist in the lands they currently cover, free to govern their lands by their laws. Rome and the Caledonii will make up the first two members of the Britannic Empire, which will be ruled by Emperor Germanicus and his descendants, effectively giving Rome the same leader as their new Empire. The Caledonii understand that this might give Rome some advantage, especially when it comes to mediating disputes between members of the Empire and Rome itself, but they understand that Rome will be bringing knowledge and technology that other members of the Empire cannot match. We have also agreed that all laws covering the Britannic Empire will be created by a new senate made up of five representatives, each selected by the governing body of their respective nation. Any laws passed by any member for their controlled area must conform to the laws passed by the Imperial Senate, and if a conflict arises, the Imperial law will take precedence.”
There was a mummer among the crowd, which Ky had expected. They would see the same thing any other Roman who’d had the deal explained to them saw.
“I understand your concerns,” he said, holding up a hand for silence. “You are worried that it would put non-Romans on an equal footing with Rome and, when the day comes to add more members, they will have the option of coming together and out-voting Rome, forcing Rome to adhere to their will. I agree that can be troubling for most of you, and many of you have sworn to see Rome bow before no one else. It is why Rome has been in conflict with the Carthaginians for so long. The problem is, you are looking at Rome as one people and other members of the Empire as separate, perhaps less equal people. It will be a difficult transition, I’m sure, but you will need to come to understand what this new Empire means. We are not neighbors of the Caledonii. We are not their allies, their friends, or their partners. We are members of the same Empire, one people unified with the same goal. Every member of the Empire is equal to the rest.”
There was more murmuring, and Ky was sure some of these men would never be able to bring themselves to see the new reality. To them, anyone who was not Roman was a barbarian, and they would never be the equal of Rome. These people were cut from the same stock as Silo. They might not have joined his rebellion, but they were unable to move with the times and understand that Rome could not stand alone and survive. It no longer had the manpower to withstand the massive Carthaginian empire.
“Although Rome and the Caledonii will each govern their own lands, neither will have armies of their own. The only military force for the Empire will belong to the Empire as a whole. Anyone from any member state can join the Empire military, which will serve the will of the Emperor and the Imperial Senate. Rome will not be without its own protection, and nor will the Caledonii. The Praetorian Guard will be expanded to be an internal peace-keeping force, both to protect all of the citizens of the Empire from brigands, thieves, and criminals and to keep the peace between the member states. While they will all answer ultimately to a single commander and the Emperor, the guard will be comprised of separate forces, one for and of each member state, and only citizens from that member’s territory will be allowed in the guard force for that region. This means only Romans can be members of the Roman guard and only Picts can be members of the Caledonii guard. They will work together, sharing a command structure and communicate, manning outposts along the borders between member states equally making sure criminals aren’t trying to pass across, but they will be separate groups. This should allow each member to feel a little more secure about their internal security, now that the legions and warriors no longer answer to their local leaders.”
Ky paused for the gathered men to take that in. For the legions, it meant an influx of more warriors from outside Rome, which would have to be integrated eventually. Velius and Aelius had seemed to accept that, since they understood the manpower shortage well, but there would probably be some lower-level commanders who’d hold prejudices against foreign warriors and see them as inferior to Roman soldiers. It would take time for the forces to truly meld together, time Rome didn’t have.
“Lastly, citizens from any member state may travel among the other member states freely. They will be held to the laws of the member state they are in, and if they break those laws they will be given the punishment those laws require. I can appreciate that we each have cultural differences that change the way we see situations, but that will not be accepted as an excuse for breaking the laws of the place where you find yourself. Make sure your citizens who decide to travel across the borders understand what is expected of them and the penalties they might incur.”
“These terms are what we have offered to our Caledonii neighbors to the north and they have accepted them in theory. I will be traveling to meet with their leader and seal the new agreements, bringing life to our new Empire. As I said from the beginning, this is not a discussion. While I welcome any input any of you may have, it will not change what has been decided. If you decide you cannot abide by the new reality and think of plotting to undo them, I point to the former senators and leaders who until yesterday attempted the same. This will be the only warning. The Roman Senate will meet to choose its five representatives this evening, their names to be submitted to the Emperor. The Caledonii representatives should be selected in a matter of weeks, at which time the new Imperial Senate will begin its work. I know this is new and I do not expect everything to go smoothly from the beginning. I only ask that you each understand the importance of what we are doing and strive to make it work. That is all.”
Ky didn’t wait for uproar or arguments, even though the volume of the collected men jumped significantly as soon as Ky stepped away from the edge of the box. He had a lot to do, and he could not hold the Romans’ hands while they accepted the fact that they would never be the sole masters of the world.
Instead of returning to his quarters in the remains of the Imperial Palace, Ky rode out to the Seventh legion, where they’d set up a permanent tent in the encampment for him, since he was back and forth so often. The plains outside of Devnum were starting to become crowded. Even though the six legions were all in various states of being under-manned, including the two legions that had been mauled when their leaders threw in their support behind Caesius and Silo, the addition of the Praetorian camp and the camp for the Picts and their dependents were pushing the city’s ability to support them.
Which is why it was so frustrating for Ky that they were still so woefully below the numbers they actually needed to survive against the Carthaginians. Carthage’s entire system was built to support its expansion, with many of its citizens expected to live barely above starvation levels. Even trying to reach a fraction of that level of manpower was straining Rome’s ability to support itself in the extreme. Eventually, Ky hoped that alliances and technological advancement could help to close both the supply and force equivalence gaps, but that would still take some time.
Ky was preparing for his meeting with the commanders, most of who had returned with him from the Colosseum. Although they needed to know about the specifics of the new alliance, their main concern was with how to handle the remnants of the two rebel legions and how to get the Picts, slaves, and ex-prisoners trained and ready for the upcoming battle.
The training part they’d gone over extensively, so that would be mostly an update, but the disposition of the First and Second legion was another matter. Besides dealing with their own losses, the remaining loyal legions had handed off officers and seasoned men to reconstitute the Fifth legion and form a central core to the Praetorian Guard as well as diluting their centuries with non-soldiers to keep slaves and freed prisoners from using their new positions to rise up against Rome. Trying to spread that manpower even further, to mix up the First and Second legions would leave just four loyal legionnaires for every ten men in a formation. That was not a desirable mixture.
Unfortunately, leaving the remnants of the First and Second legions as they are, even if they were augmented by ex-slaves or new recruits, was ill-advised. They may have offered a blanket pardon to the front-line soldiers and lower-level commanders, but that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be a large portion of men who still believed in what their commanders had tried. Leaving them all together and intact would be as much of a mistake as having legions with a two to five ratio of loyal to questionable men. There weren’t a lot of good options available to them.
Ky was looking at reports and not really seeing them when a throat cleared from the entrance, which was the tent equivalent to knocking.