Literary Contest II ~ Ludi Conditorum 2761 AUC (Nova Roma)/Winner/Comments

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Aedile Comments on the Entry

Albucius aed. omnibus Aureliaeque s.d.

Aurelia Falco Silvana has been declared **Winner** of the Letter Contest, whose matter was "you are a Roman soldier in Fabius Valens's marching army, in the eve of 69 AD. You have, on Feb. 15 (Lupercalia) written in Lugdunum a letter to your mother living in Rome, to give her news and confirm that you will not be able to be by her side for the Matronalia".

Here again, the fact that she has been the only contributor does not lower her work that you will enjoy below.

In this letter, Aurelia is in a roman soldier's chair, writing in his tent to his mother, sister and future nephew. Aurelia inserts private, family and military daily life elements which make this letter very pleasant to read.

For, besides the literary difficulty itself, there was a historical and factual difficulty, that Aurelia has pretty well dealt with. In the commented version, you will thus find our comments, and when needed, our corrections.

Here is besides what Hon. Aurelia, whose gravitas is as known that her dedication in our contests, has willed to specify :

"These comments allow me to improve my own knowledge. Like my (involved in Ludi - aed. note) gladiators and aurigae, I need to learn from every experience. Every civis, even the newest, should try some of the literary events because they are wonderful self-teaching exercises.

Some of us have had the privilege of taking Classical Studies in school or university. Many (like me) have not.

So the literary competition becomes a kind of "directed study" project which costs only my time, and leaves a lasting benefit of understanding the classical world."

Let us all take example on and listen Aurelia Silvana, and remind, as Baron de Coubertin has said for Olympic Games : "The important is not winning: it is taking part."

So... prepare your calames (pens) for next games, Quirites !

Good reading and valete omnes !

P. Memmius Albucius aed. cur.

(commented aedilitas version, comments in bold italics)


by C. Aurelia Falco Silvana

written in Lugdunum, Gallia in the year 822 auc on the 15th of February (Lupercalia)

My dear mother, your loving son sends warmest greetings. If you are well, my mother, then I shall be well also.

I pray the Gods that you are in good health and that our house in Rome is warm and secure against the weather and against the rumors that fly like the snowflakes here in Gaul. To my sister also, greetings. As you guessed in your last letter, I am still far from home. Though I long to be at your side, I sorrow that only my sister will be with you for the Matronalia. But the two of you will surely attend for the sake of the babe she carries.

I am saving to buy a gift for each of you, but I must ask your patience a while longer. Our salaries have not been paid for the last two paydays, which means more than six months.

See infra.

I am afraid my savings have shrunk as I must purchase a few necessaries for myself. But let me not wail about myself. I must tell you what I shall send: two fine embroidered cloaks in the style of the Belgic women. There is nothing in the world so warm as a Belgic woolen cloak. Even the roughest, plainest Belgic blanket is a treasure. I learned this when we were stationed in Germania. Only please wait a little longer and you shall each have one. Our centurion says they must pay us soon.

See infra.

We soldiers, I confess, like him very much when he growls out the word "must."

I shall speak frankly in this letter, dear mother, because I know it will pass through our General's couriers and none other. I ask you to be sure you are alone before you continue reading.

There's also the fat bonus each and every soldier was to receive. You will remember I wrote to you after our Legion helped to crush the traitor Gaius Iulius Vindex in Gaul?

So the writer belongs to one of the 7 following legions : I Germanica, V Alaudae, XV Primigenia, XVI Gallica (Germania inferior) or, for Germania superior, IV Macedonica, XXI Rapax, XXII Primigenia.

We waited many months for a reward we earned with our blood. Some men paid with their lives, including two from our tent. All we received after we returned to Germania was a handful of air.

This is not sure: the legions garrisoned in Germany have normally received their wage and have even been furthermore a "praeda gloriaque exercitus", as Tacitus says in Hist. 1, 41,1: the soldiers have made much booty in June 68.

Our general finally mustered our Legions one by one, and told us Old Galba refused to pay up.

Not likely in our op.: the general in chief was, in summer 68 and when Galba was proclaimed emperor, L. Verginius Rufus, Vindex's winner in Vesontio (current Besançon, France). Verginius has not only refused the empire proposed by his own soldiers but also showed his loyalty to Galba by meeting the successor designed by Galba as head of Germania inferior armies, Flaccus Hordeonius, and giving him these armies before going towards Galba and entering Rome with him. The « general » could not be just Fabius, who was at this time a simple legate, commanding just one legion.

We have had few news, and they are always late reaching us. Last year, one of the men in our tent (he's a Spaniard) received a letter from home telling how Old Galba left Hispania Terraconensis. We bet on whether the dotard would actually make it to Rome; my bet was that he wouldn't.

Two legions of Germany had refused to swear in Galba on Jan 69, 1st.: the IV Macedonica and the XXII Primigenia, both garrisoned in Mogontiacum (currently Mainz, Germany). The 15th of Jan., Galba is killed by Othon's supporters, and Othon declared emperor. Tacitus says that the news on Galba's murder joined Fabius Valens and his soldiers "in the city of Leuci", so probably – see below - in current French Toul, on Jan. 28. The historian adds that the "soldiers felt neither joy nor fright" (Hist., 1-44,1). So we see that the legions were rather quickly informed of the recent events in Rome : 13 days for 1250 kms after the event, so a pretty good average of 100 kms per day. So the 7 legions of Germany not only had been hept informed of Galba's journey, from July to October 68, but also of all the events occurred since, probably till February 2nd.

So I lost some of my savings when I read your last letter to my tent-mates. It's a good thing our family is modest, and father has been careful in his political leanings. Another tent-mate's family lost everything when Old Galba went after the riches Emperor Nero had spread amongst his cronies.

We really became a united military force this past winter.

The whole Germany's army (the 7 legions) seem to have entered the war against Vindex, but it was seven months ago. In the "past" winter, which is in fact the current one for we are in February 69, the army cannot be but the following one, placed under Fabius Valens's command by Vitellius : around 40,000 men, composed of troops from Germania inferior, with the eagle of the V Alaudae (so we may suppose that this legion was the core of the army), with auxiliary cohors and cavalry wings (alae) (see Tacitus, Hist. 1, 41,2). So, Fabius's army was just a part of (around a half of it) the army who fought Vindex (the 7 Germany legions)

Oh, yes, we march together, drill and fight and carouse together, but we were never really united until all of us, from the greenest soldier to the General himself, had the same thought in mind and committed the same sin: every last one of us refused to swear allegiance to that ancient, doddering creature who dares to call himself "emperor" as if he were a true Augustus. (I am sorry for displaying my anger, but I write on some vellum I have cadged, so I cannot wipe out my words.)

So our writer should belong either to the IV Macedonica or to the XXII Primigenia, both garrisoned in Mogontiacum (currently Mainz, Germany), which refused the oath. But we are facing here a difficulty. These two legions stayed in fact with Vitellius, who followed Fabius Valens a few weeks afterwards. If the writer belongs to the legions which have refused the oath to Galba on Jan 1st, he cannot be in Lugdunum with Fabius ; if he is, and this has been our hypothesis, he cannot belong to any of the rebel Mayence's legions.

You must wonder that this letter is from Lugdunum. In January, we marched west out of the frozen snows of Germania.

In fact rather south-west, from current Köln, on Jan. 15. If the landscape may have been snowy, the army took the Mosel valley, which is more protected during winter.

Moving, even slogging through the snow, was better than sitting around shivering where we were. It was slow going and after eight days we had only made about 150 miles

After 8 days, the army was probably around Pont-à-Mousson (France), between Metz and Toul. It has thus made 300 km, so rather 200 roman miles.

when this courier rides past us, all along our ranks heading for the front of the column.

Did the courier come from Vitellius' headquarters (so from its back and Colonia), or from Rome, and so from the south ? Both solutions are possible, even if the Rome one is more likely.

He must have been trailing us, catching up to us. Then word spreads back down the rank and file: Old Galba's gone and died.

See above : it is possible that the news came to Fabius Valens before his army reached Tullum (Toul). But it must be during the 23 roman miles before Tullum, on the west bank of Moselle and Meurthe rivers, because the northern and eastern ones are in *Mediomatrices* civitas, not in "civitate Leucorum", as specifies Tacitus (Hist, 1,44, 1). Furthermore, Tacitus (Hist, 1,74,2) tells us that 'legates belonging to the Senate' (thus senators) had been sent by Othon and joined the army in Lugdunum, where is currently our writer. It must be around the 15th Feb., if not this day itself. Our letter's writer has very probably *seen them*.

Lynched, rumor has it. Most of us didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. Good riddance to bad rubbish (did I write that? sorry). And no hope of ever seeing the fat reward owed to us since we took down C. Iulius Vindex. The only hope we have of even seeing our back-pay is to keep marching and trust our General.

None of us soldiers were really supposed to know exactly where we were going,

In fact, Tacitus let us understand that the soldiers themselves have rather *claimed for* marching on Rome (Hist, 1, 42, 2).

but the General's cook talked to the slave two tents down, and so on. We're recruiting new troops to make up for our losses last year. (It's hard to look at the two empty spaces in our tent where our comrades used to sleep.) Chilly Lugdunum feels like Massilia after the ice and snow of Germania, but tomorrow we head further south for more recruiting.

Valens's army has received weapons and supplies from the crossed "civitates" (Eduans, Lugdunum), but apparently no recruits. Tacitus just mentions the fact that the Legio Italica and the Ala Tauriana, garrisoned in Lyons, are took away by Valens to reinforce his army, while he is leaving in Lugdunum the 18th cohors. After Lugdunum, Fabius's army will march on Vienna, which was designed as "inimica".

My candle is burning low, so I will only tell you a little about our General, and then I sleep. He is Fabius Valens, and if you do not yet know his name, you soon will. Through the web of cooks and slaves and grooms we hear that we, common soldiers, shall once again serve Rome with honor and pride. We have many miles of marching ahead of us.

(around 750 Roman miles, i.e. 1,100 kms).

For your own sake, because you are my mother and because I am with the army of General Valens, this is all I can tell you. I trust I shall see you and my sister before her baby is born.

In sorrow that I cannot be with you for the Matronalia, in joy that I may soon take your hands in mine, your loving son wishes you health and the peace that only the Gods can give.

In addition to Tacitus History, you may also read report usefully to Plutarch's Galba for your further information on these turmoiled events that followed Nero's death, and when Vespasian finally won the "year of the four emperors"'s fight.

PMA, aed. cur.

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