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the works of anthony barnhart

In the Name of Rome Excerpt
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Because of the blinding snow, they did not see the arrows till they were right over their heads. Before they could react, screams of shuddering pain rippled through the ranks. Shields fell into the snow, bodies collapsed. Men tore at arrows in their chest and legs, the tips shove out the back of their flesh. Hands raised, slick with blood; snow melted under gushes of steaming body fluid, arteries and organs torn. Soldiers clutched at arrows in their throats. Panic spread through the ranks. Warriors writhed and whimpered in the snow, and in seconds lay quiet, their youthful and boyish innocence display – crystal as their snowy graves – in vacant eyes and crooked masks of agony.

In pacis, filius tego texi tectum suum abbas (in peace, sons bury their fathers)

In bellum , abbas tego texi tectum suum filius (in war, fathers bury their sons)

Amidst the mayhem and confusion, the commanding unit officers ran up and down the unit lines, shouting, “Testudo! Testudo!” The soldiers stepped over their fallen comrades and clustered together. The commanding officers continued to lash out the command, boots splashing in blood-laden snow.

A commander’s voice evolved into a shrill scream as the second volley fell upon them. Arrows laced through the soldiers and more fell, wounds burning in pain and freezing in the snow, all at the same time. The urban cohort commander pitched onto his knees, weakly pulling at two arrows in his chest; blood soaked under the pierced armor, warming him, and he fell onto his side, going limp, eyes rolling into the back of his head.

Another commanded coughed blood welling in his throat. A single arrow had driven through him, splintering his lung; knowing his End was on the horizon, feeling weak already, he continued to rasp, “Testudo! Testudo!” Blood trickled down his chin; he blacked out, fell against Roman legionaries. He felt warm, serene, unconcerned. The ocean touched his ears, and he smelt the salt, felt the silky hair of his little girls, heard their laughter – Elysium.

His bloody hands scraped against the wooden and steel shields of his men. They tried to pull him inside, but a third and fourth arrow pierced him with the third volley. Arrows landed in the snow between the soldiers, pranced off their shields, and a few soldiers grunted as arrow tips pierced the wooden shields, the steel tips, burning hot from driving through the wood, hovering centimeters before their wide eyes. No more men fell, as three testudos had been formed: the soldiers stood shoulder-to-shoulder, the front and side lines holding their shields to face the outside; the soldiers on the inside braced the lightweight shields above their heads. A fourth volley – arrows pranced off the ceiling of shields.

All movement ceased. No one could break through a wall of phalanxes in testudo. Not a single person knew what to do.

Wounded lay crying in the snow.