Manlius stared thoughtfully into the fire. Inside the walls of Caralis he was warm and dry. The heat from the fire warmed his old bones, he had a chill ache perhaps was a better word, even though the evening was mild and clear. At 61 he was too old to be conducting tactical disengagements against Hasdrubal the Bald’s unknown forces. This day reminded him too much of his dark days in the bloody forests of Gaul with Camillus.
Yet, thank goodness for those days! He thought, as Rome now fights like a well oiled machine since the Camillian Reforms. Well …not lately… but anyhow that was sure to change, grimacing as old wounds warmed up, he stretched closer to the fire. That Hannibal, and his clan would be lucky only so many times.
Proconsuls today are all young fools, he sighed to himself. They seek glory for self instead of for the glory of Rome. “Well this old fool will not be fooled, my Legions will fight or die trying to suppress the rebellion here” he muttered. His attendant steps forward and refills his watered wine. “Enough! “ Manlius gruffly exclaims waving away the jug and the attendant.
Striding stiffly to his map table he called loudly for more light. The problem was Hasdrubals cavalry had kept him from ascertaining the true size and capabilities of the Carthaginian forces on the Island of Sardinia. He needed more time to train his troops. This was despite the resounding beating the V and XIV Legions detachments had given that young Rebel Hostus earlier this week. They had needed that small victory. The V had been leaderless for too long and the XIV was a motley crew if ever he saw one. The men had performed well enough but the Tribunes & Praefects were reckless as he had a hell of a time reigning in their pursuit of Hostus.
By all reports Hasdrubal and his army would arrive in 2 days. When he did I will be ready, as he always was he thought, but will my men be?
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The armies were arrayed opposing each other just 700 m apart. Elephants on the right wing of Romes field screened what looked to be an assortment of Goatskinned Sardinians, Thracians, and Aetolians. Manlius looked to his left, there he saw the heavy infantry of Carthage their distinctive purple hued robes flapped in the breeze, along with the Iberian light infantry with their round bucklers.
To the far left Carthaginian heavy cavalry trampled the ground amongst the assortment of Lancers and lightening fast Numidian horsemen. The latter were nearly naked, baring a shield and a handful of wicked javelins they stood out in stark contrast to breast plated, greaved heavy cavalry and lancers.
A lone horn sounded. As Manlius expected the entire right under the enemy general Mago was sweeping wide to engage his 1,200 Roman Cavalry. Nothing new here he thought. Per prescription and custom he ordered forward his Velites at the trot. (R:5 C:0)
Warriors closed in on each other. What? Where are those Elephants going he thought? A rolling crash hit his eardrums, as horses, men and javelins flew thick and fast just to his left. No time to ponder Elephants he thought. The V cavalry was loosing its unity, and one Alae fled the field. The Celtic Lancers however appeared to be worse for wear for their brash charge as far as he could see. “Steady men, keep your pace” he roared out.
Manlius’s attention was drawn left. What appeared to be Hanno at the head of the African heavy infantry were also sweeping right from behind the Iberians. They, the cavalry and the Elephants were all headed his way! This is not what I expected he thought.
His hastily conformed Marines and Velites scared off the Elephants in front of him by spearing them in the rump, sending them off in all directions as he urged his horse forward with the legions; ordering off cohorts as he progressed on his left to protect against a likely Numidian penetration. His able Centurions ordered the Maniples into position, Signifiers and Optio’s all working in unison
He glances back at the Triarii, comforted as he recognizes some old faces from Gaul, their mail shirts and Corinthian helmets showing the signs of veteran determination. (R:20 C: 4)
With the Elephants exposing the Goatskins and rebels on his right would his Praefect Antonius leading the maniples realise that and attack?
It seems Hostus had the same thought….. His Levies rush the Roman line seeking the advantage. The first ranks of Hastati are engaged in a vicious shoving match with the rebels. (R:39 C:21) The fisrt lines were stunned by the ferociousness of the attack. The Decanus quickly ordered passage of lines to relieve the men.
Breaking contact they reform and charge ineffectually into the enemy. Pili exhausted they try to hold ground whilst additional cohorts advance He sees his Praefect Antonius standard fall! Did the Praefect Antonius meet his end?
Manlius can see his men fighting on valiantly, the Principes rapidly rotate up and follow on the attack.
He strains to see and then relaxes as a hail of light pila fly through the air into the midst of the lightly armed enemy.
He imagines the Principes closing at the trot 35m then 30m, and at 10m he looks up to see their second volley of heavy pila strike home with deadly force, each warrior now silently drawing their gladius and raising their scutum they connect with a sickening crunch against the enemies shields.
Hostus’s pennant falls, men around him waiver. Hostus dies on the field!
((this actually happened in game see the video of Ldr Bostar))
With Antonius’s death Manlius can only hope the Optio (2nd in command) or a Tesserarius (orderly sergeant) would take control and exploit the current success on his right. He had bigger problems on his left. (R:43 C:47)
HD Stop Motion video here of the AAR:
Mago’s cavalry continue to ride amongst the Velites and Hastati cutting them down. Manlius’s cohorts trying to hold the flank see the wave of dark African troops bearing down on them through the dust churned up by the hooves of Numidian riders. Its enough to un nerve a man. (R:55 C:47)
Plautius the centurion leading the Triarii, waves them forward. If he can engage the Africans perhaps the depleted Roman cavalry can attack the purple robed men from the rear.
Hasdrubals men push back the Roman left further, seeing the danger of the distant Roman Cavalry his signaler orders the Balearic slingers to ward off or slow down the Romans.
Manlius is at the side of the V Legion, as they grind on the center of Hasdrubals Iberian line.
He turns to look back from the Iberians in front of him and sees Mago and his Lancers bearing down on him. He instinctively straightens his aching back, wheels and sounds the warning, as his men clear away the last of the Iberians. (R:79 C:77) Beyond his view however deep behind him Hasdrubal signals the charge of his African heavy troops in between Manlius and the Triarii who surge through the ranks of Romans. The nearest maniples around Manlius’s are swept away.
Hasdrubal’s men drive home their advantage, as they are seeing cohorts rout before them it raises the blood of all around them……….(R:130 C:83)
In the dark after the sounds of battle have subsided a tall noble but weary looking Roman walks slowly over the rise before the rocky shore to look one last time back upon his last battlefield: Caralis. ” Omina frustra”, he mutters. The Battle for Sardinia is lost.
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This is the 8th battle of the 2nd Punic War campaign. Battle 7 is a naval conflict.
So far Carthage is 7-0. As you read this Nero is flanking Hannibal at the 3rd Battle of Nola.
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