Friday, December 2, 2011

Close of the Dacian War

Throughout much of 697 AUC (57 BC), the war between Dacia and the Roman Republic proceeded as a series of sieges and skirmishes, rather than set battles.  Caesar's legions would, at various points, lay siege to one Dacian city or another, while Burebista's army would attempt to wear away at the supply lines of the Romans, while they were held down in sieges.  When Caesar would pursue Burebista's army, seeking battle, the Dacians would turn and lift the current siege.  Thus, neither force was able to accomplish anything of note, other than delay.

This stalemate fit into Burebista's strategy, as he hoped to simply outlast the Roman invasion, counting on victory being simply 'not losing.'  Understanding that Caesar was largely after glory and the political capital that went with it, he made every effort to harass and humiliate the Romans.  He may, however, underestimated Roman tenacity and vindictiveness.

Burebista's greatest victory was, as it turned out, something of the set battle which he sought to avoid.  While marching to the relief of the city of Buridava, in the late summer,  Burebista's army was overtaken by a Roman force of two legions, marching to reconnect with Caesar.  Though Burebista did not have any intention of engaging the enemy force, as they were comparable in number, the situation was forced upon him.

However, the Roman commander, Lucius Antonius Hybrida, overconfidently spread his lines dangerously thin, in an effort to envelop the Dacian force.  Burebista, seeing the opportunity present to him,  was able to punch through the Roman lines in two separate spots, enveloping the troops between.  Over half of the Roman soldiers were killed in this battle, and Antonius was soon recalled to Rome in disgrace, to be replaced by the more competent Gnaeus Domitius Regulus.

More heartening developments were to be found in the west, where the Roman allies, the Boii, a celtic tribe, were winning a series of victories over the Jazyges and the Dacian army in their vicinity.  At the start of the war, the Boii were a waning tribe, under intense pressure from the Dacian invasions of their territory, as were their neighbors, the Taurisci and the Scordisci.  However, under their king, Artebudes, they deftly negotiated alliances with the other tribes, and began to coordinate their defenses against the Dacians.

The Boii had the advantage of having the other two tribes in between them and the Dacian kingdom, thus allowing them some breathing room while the Taurisci and Scordisci took the brunt of the raids.  Artebudes also made all possible haste to assist in the defense of those that supported his war plans, while his army would arrive just too late to assist those that were opposed to him.  Thus, he was able to allow the natural course of war to eliminate many of his rivals.  On one noteworthy occasion, his army was not far from the site of a battle between the Dacians and a rival of his, Moges.  Artebudes made sure his army arrived just after Moges and his retinue had been killed in battle, saving the bulk of the leaderless army and defeating the Dacians.  Such perfect timing was the exception, rather than the rule, however.

Artebudes' strategy was quite effective, and the Boii were, by 697 AUC (57 BC) pre-eminent among the three tribes, and were the only capable of sending troops to assist Caesar's army directly.  His fame, already quite noteworthy among his people and neighboring tribes, was to skyrocket with the defeat of the Jazyges by his army.  It was not even half a decade before that the Jazyges were one of the most feared tribes in the entire region.  Now, they had been attrited by constant war, as well as the tendency of generals to use overwhelming force against them, for fear of their reputation.

Meanwhile, to the north, several barbarian tribes, including the Germanic Quadi, and the Venedae and Navari, began to raid the northern regions of Dacia.  Burebista's army could not defend against these raids, as well as those of the Boii and Bastarnae, and hold back Caesar's Legions.  As the war ravaged the land, many people suffered and some began to lose their faith in Burebista's leadership.

The coming winter was harsher than usual, and exacted a cruel toll on the populace.  Caesar spent the winter, forging ties with many of the Dacian tribes to the north; those that suffered the most from the constant raids.  He brought food and other gifts for the nobles, and soon won over the Costoboci and Carpi tribes.  He left with them garrisons to defend against the barbarians.

With the loss of the Carpi and Costoboci, Burebista knew that he could no longer avoid open battle with Caesar.  His strategy of bleeding the Romans white had worked just as well, if not better, against his own people.  He made every effort to pin down Caesar's army on favorable terrain, while Caesar made similar effort.  Eventually, the two armies met several miles northeast of the Burebista's capital of Argadeva, near Apulum.

As the two armies approached each other, Caesar began to make preparations and built up extensive fortifications around his army.  Burebista's army made a few attempts to assault the fortifications before building their own circumvallation, in imitation of Roman siege methods.  However, by doing so, the Dacian army was deprived of the mobility with which they had foiled the Roman attempts to defeat them.  Pinned down, Burebista's army was soon forced to defend against attacks from the allies of Rome, led by Octavius, Spartacus, and Artebudes.

The Dacian army did what they could to build defenses against the incoming armies, but their forces were soon stretched too thin by the double assault.  Caesar's troops assaulted the Dacian fortifications just as the outer lines were being completed.  As the battle raged, the outer army also renewed their attacks.  It was not long before the situation was hopeless for the Dacians, and Burebista, as his army disintegrated around him, took his own life, effectively ending the war.

The remainder of the Dacian military and government quickly surrendered to Caesar after one more minor skirmish.  Dacia was divided up, with some western territories being granted to the Boii and the northern areas, where the Costoboci and Carpi tribes resided, were established as allied client states of the Roman Republic.  The rest of Burebista's kingdom was divided into provinces.  Those territories to the south of the Danuvius river were organized into the province of Moesia.  The province of Dacia was organized out of the rest of the territories, stretching from the Danuvius in the south, to the Tisia in the west, up to the territories of the Costoboci and Carpi in the north, reaching around to the river Tyras, beyond which lay the Bastarnae, who were still allied to the Republic.

Once the civil affairs were in order, a process taking much of the remainder of the year, Caesar made preparations for further campaigns, against the barbarians beyond the territories of the states newly allied to Rome.  This campaign took up the better part of the year  698 AUC (56 BC), and the Roman forces were largely successful against the tribes, defeating armies of Quadi, Venedae, and Navari in efficient order.  Caesar, however, mainly sought to impress, by force of arms, the power of the Roman Republic and its faithfulness to its allies.  Therefore, he accepted peace with the tribes on generous terms and returned to Dacia before the close of summer.

Caesar, of course, could afford to be generous, given the wealth that which flowed into his coffers after the conquest of the Dacian gold mines.  Much of this went directly to his veterans, many of whom were also settled in Dacia on land confiscated from the conquered.  He also used the wealth to support the campaigns of his allies in Rome itself, including Lucius Octavius, who had returned to the city to run for Consul, and was elected.  By the end of  698 AUC (56 BC), Caesar himself was in Rome, celebrating a triumph for his victory.

While researching the Boii, I came across some information on Noric, one of the most eastern Celtic languages, spoken in Austria and Slovenia.  About as close to the Boii as I could get.  One of the few Noric inscriptions known references a man named "Artebudz," whose name is theorized to mean "bear penis."  Originally, the Boii king was to be named Moges, but, quite frankly, you have to go with the funnier name. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Continuation of the Dacian War

With Scythia minor firmly under Roman control, Caesar assembled his forces and marched onward, while leaving behind the Legio VIII to reinforce their rear in Scythia minor, including dredging out sections of the Danuvius and building an intricate system of dikes and levies to allow for the flooding of the marshlands, in case of Dacian attacks.

Caesar led the main body of his forces up, along the Hierasus (Siret) River, towards the Dacian city of Petrodava, while his lieutenant, Lucius Octavius, lead the Legio X up the coast, to take the port of Tyras, near the mouth of the river of the same name (Dniester).  Caesar planned to isolate the Dacians from their chief allies, the Bastarnae, with this phase of the campaign.

Octavius had little difficulty in securing Tyras, surprising the Dacian force assigned to defend it.  He quickly set about reinforcing the defenses of the city, which soon proved necessary, as the Bastarnae army bore down on his position, besieging the city after an initial attempt to storm the walls proved unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Caesar was faced with the main body of Burebista's army, under the Dacian king's command.  Caesar had, in his army, three legions and their auxiliaries, totaling roughly 48,000 men, as well as 10,000 Thracians.  Meanwhile, Burebista had over 100,000 soldiers in his army, hoping to crush Caesar's main force in a climactic battle.  The two armies clashed south of Proboridava, where a tactically inconclusive battle took place, with moderate casualties on both sides.

However, Burebista's plan was to hold down Caesar's forces long enough for the Dacian force to circle around them, cutting off their access to the lower part of the river.  The inconclusive bloody battle served this end perfectly, especially since Burebista's larger force could weather casualties with less difficulty.  By the end of the battle, the Romans were faced with a Dacian army both to their north and south, preventing them from advancing either further along the river or back to their base of operations, at Barbosi.  Caesar, surmising the Dacian strategy, conducted a forced march eastward, to the next branch of the Hierasus river, continuing his march up that branch.

Burebista then sent a smaller contingent of his army after Caesar, to follow him up the river, while his main force continued back up the main branch of the Hierasus, assuming that Caesar intended to circle around the Dacian forces and resume their advance on Petrodava.  However, several days into the new march, after some distance had been placed between Caesar's army and his pursuers, and the main Dacian force, the Roman army spun around and engaged the pursuing force.

The resulting battle went quickly in the Romans' favor, as the Dacians were not prepared for the onslaught.  Caesar made special effort to annihilate the army, before turning eastward, and marching in relief of Octavius at Tyras, where more and more of the Bastarnae were gathering and constructing ships in order to starve the city into submission.

As Caesar's army arrived at Tyras, the Bastarnae began to abandon their efforts of the siege and focus on repelling the new army.  The main Bastarnae force, under the command of their king, Zanatis, attacked the Roman troops relentlessly and savagely, their cavalry more than a match for the Romans, thus enabling the barbarians to press the Roman force on two different flanks.  As he saw his lines buckling and breaking, Caesar rushed to the front and began shouting to individual centurions and encouraging them, heading into the heat of battle itself.

The legionaries, seeing their general rush off into battle as they were being beaten back, hardened their resolve and stood firm.  Still, however, the Bastarnae continue to hammer into them, bloodying their army.  Caesar's bravery (or recklessness) again proved to be decisive.  As he fought the enemy, he came into battle with Zanatis, their king, himself.  The two fought for some time, until Caesar slipped on the blood drenched ground.  Zanatis then thrust down his sword powerfully at the Roman general, who was able to roll out of the way just in time, the blade sliding along the side of his armor.  Zanatis himself was caught off balance by his thrust, and Caesar thrust his gladius into the king's stomach, killing him and earning Caesar the Spolia Opima, the highest award any Roman could ever receive, which had been verifiably awarded only once before (though two, including Romulus, had received it in legend).

The soldiers on each side around them had become somewhat transfixed on the battle, and the Bastarnae were disheartened, while the Romans were encouraged.  These feelings soon spilled throughout the lines, and the Romans redoubled their efforts, while many Bastarnae fled in distress.  What looked to be a possible defeat for the Romans soon turned into a clear victory, as the Bastarnae army was shattered and demoralized.

After the battle, a delegation of Bastarnae nobles came forth to seek peace with the Romans.  They honored Caesar with many gifts for his bravery, and pledged that they would not seek war with Rome any longer.  Caesar accepted their peace offer and negotiated an alliance with the nobles, thus shoring up the northern front of the war.  The assembled parties agreed upon the border between Rome and the Bastarnae to be the Tyras river

By this point, Burebista was facing reports of increasing attacks from the Roman allies, the Jazyges, in his western realms.  Confident in the impregnability of the fortified cities of Dacia, he gathered the bulk of his forces and led them west to battle the Jazyges.  Thus, as Caesar's forces began to march into the Dacian heartland, Burebista was battling the Jazyges.

The records of these battles are not as detailed as those directly involving significant Roman forces, but the outcome is clear.  After a series of major battles, the first being fought in the mountain passes near Tapae, the Dacians were able to defeat the Jazyges and subdue them.  The final battle of this campaign was during the winter of 696-7 AUC (58-7 BC), when the Dacians launched a surprise attack over the Tisia (Tisza) river, catching the Jazyges off guard.  Subsequently, the Jazyges swore their allegiance to Burebista, effectively reversing the major alliances of the conflict.

As the winter set in, with the Romans laying siege to the eastern cities of Dacia, Burebista had a new plan for the war.  He intended allow Caesar to invest himself in long, protected sieges, while he would continually harass the Roman forces apart from the main army, wearing them down until he could crush them.  Meanwhile, Caesar was busy shoring up his supply lines and expanding his forces, reinforcing his current legions and recruiting a sixth legion, the XIV Falxa (named after the Dacian curved sword, the Falx), which contained a significant proportion of natives.


And so Caesar's war in Dacia continues.  I've been torn about the writing of this segment.  On the one hand, Caesar clearly is going to win, given the theme of this history, and the fact that he's a really good general with a really good army.  On the other hand, I don't want to make it too easy on him.

I also decided that Caesar should get the award of Spolia Opima, given to a Roman general who defeats the opposing commander in single combat.  Before him, only three Romans ever achieved the honor, making it the highest award any could receive.  Those three were Romulus, Aulus Cornleius Cossus, and Marcus Claudius Marcellus (one of Rome's best generals, ever).  Of those, only Marcellus is verifiable.  In our history, no other Roman would ever receive Spolia Opima.  There was the case of Marcus Licinius Crassus (grandson of the triumvir of the same name), who defeated the king of the Bastarnae in combat (the inspiration of this segment).  However, Augustus denied him the award on a technicality, as Augustus was, in theory, the Roman commander, by merit of his political position.

Also, a note about the Jazyges.  They're known more commonly in our history as the Iazyges, but I decided to translate them with a 'j' instead of an 'i', as that is an accepted spelling, and, since I haven't been spelling Julius as Iulius, it seemed only fitting.

Lastly, Octavius is the brother of Gaius Octavius, the father of Augustus.  I originally intended for Gaius Octavius himself to the commander, but decided that he was too much Caesar's peer to be serving under him (they were roughly the same age and Octavius even advanced quicker up the political ladder, in our history).  Instead, I decided that a younger brother of Octavius would serve the same purpose quite nicely.