Published on March 2, 2014
THE SPARTAN BY M IKE R OGERS COPYRIGHT © 2012 BY JOLLY ROGERS PRESS
Prologue Long ago, Alexander, I was a slave to one of the bravest warriors that ever lived. He was a Spartan, like your master is now, and he placed me in charge of his weapons. He was a hard man, but fair. If you did your job well, you were rewarded. If you neglected your duties…well, he’d break out the whip. Not that he ever had to do so, because even amongst the slaves he was loved and deeply respected for his courage. His name was Eclectus Megalos, and he was the last true Spartan. He alone did not bow to the might of Rome, and he became an outcast because of it. What happened to him, I do not know, but I am certain he died a warrior's death, as he highly desired. The story I want to tell you of him on this day is not one about great heroics or how many enemies he killed. No, this story is about the man behind the warrior. One night, after the army had marched all day and we finally settled around a campfire in our newly setup camp, my master Eclectus sat aside me and sighed deeply. The other men were drinking wine and boasting to one another about the heroic deeds they had done in the past and were putting wagers on the heroic deeds they would do the day after, but my master kept silent and simply stared into the fire, despite being the bravest warrior of them all and having surpassed his comrades in every possible way. One of the men around the fire, a young Spartan who had only seen a mere three battles, was so drunk that he forgot his place and shouted across the small circle of comrades at my master. "Why do you not join us in our happiness?" he asked. "Why sit there and sulk? Take a woman in your bed tonight and a pitcher of wine, for tomorrow we march to our next battle!" My master stared at the young man, but kept silent. This infuriated the young Spartan, who barely managed to get onto his feet. "You do us contempt by keeping your tongue! I heard all these wonderful tales about you, Eclectus, and yet here you sit, mute like a donkey! Are you the great warrior everyone talks about? I think not!"
The drunken man now looked at the other men, who were obviously embarrassed in his place, and some even shook their head, knowing my master could easily break the young warrior in half. "What are you all staring at?! You think I speak untruthfully because I am drunk? On the contrary, I am quite lucid! So lucid I dare to say Eclectus is a coward! Why, just yesterday, after the battle was won, I saw him sink to the ground on his knees and cry like a little child! Big juicy tears rolled down his cheeks! Ha, great warrior my ass!" My master got onto his feet and the other men around the fire held their breath, afraid for what was going to happen next. But instead of the anticipated outburst of violence, my master quietly said, “You have no idea what you are talking about, young fool. I admit that I cry after each battle; I find no shame in that. For the reason I cry is one you will never have to worry about. I cry because I know that for every man I kill on the battlefield his spirit will visit me in my dreams that night and his face will haunt me for weeks to come. I cry because every night I get many visitors. You, on the other hand, will never get many visitors. You will be a visitor soon enough.” And then my master turned around and left the small group behind. The men all stared at his back and knew he spoke the truth. A good warrior has a few restless nights; a great warrior never has a normal night ever again. As the night went on, Trimidites the slave stared at the full moon and tried to remember the times before his master had been banished. How had it all begun? How had his master become so disappointed by the Spartan society and customs that he had rebelled in such a way? Trimidites started digging in his memory for the how and why and by the time the sun started to rise over Sparta he had remembered. It had all started when his master travelled to Epirus right after the third Macedon war. Something had changed him there. A full-blooded Spartan, he was never an amicable man. He was hard as steel and unforgiving because of his military training. But after Epirus, he had changed into a man much harder than a Spartan. Before Epirus he had been as hard as steel. After it, he had become as hard as stone. And before something is so terrible it changes a Spartan, it had to have been horrific…
CHAPTER 1 When Eclectus Megalos had travelled to Macedon, it had just been put under the occupation of Roman forces. Legions had been sent there to silence the voices of protest that had followed the third Macedonian war. King Perseus of Macedon had had the foolish idea of taking on Rome. Perseus was an ambitious man and out for gold, women and land. And what better way than to take it from those weaker than himself? His first step in his ambitious plan had been to marry Laodike, the daughter of the Asian king Seleucus IV. He increased his army and forged many alliances across the Greek peninsula. For a while everything went well, and Greece became powerful and prosperous again. But those were exactly the two things Rome could not abide. Perseus was well on his way to force the Romans out of Greece and yes, even to become an important rival and threat to Rome. So the Romans did as they had always done: they made war. Using King Eumenes II of Pergamon, they made sure war erupted in Greece. Pergamon and the Romans conspired together to destroy Macedonia, but at first they failed. Perseus won the first struggle: the battle of Larissa, where he faced the army of Publius Licinius Crassus. Wise as he was, the king offered a peace treaty to the Romans, which was refused. The Romans could make no profit from peace, only from war. Another Roman army was soon to be defeated in Illyria. Perseus desperately tried to convince other Asian rulers to help him in this struggle, to finally put a stop to the madness that was Rome, to the corruptness, the greed and the audacity. But none came. Not even his father-in-law sent out an army to help.
Soon after, Perseus was defeated by the legions of the Roman consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus at the Pydna. Perseus was deposed and his dignitaries taken to Rome to serve as spectacle for a Roman victory parade. Macedon was torn apart, divided into four Roman republics, each one having to pay tribute to Rome. To make sure there would be no uprisings, Paullus had 500 Macedonians executed because of their opposition. He exiled many more to the barbaric regions beyond Greece and confiscated their belongings. His soldiers, not content with their small share of the plunder, started to rebel. Paullus kept them quiet by letting them sack Epirus and 70 other towns. Over 150,000 people were enslaved, 40,000 more killed and numerous women brutally violated. The region never recovered from this brutality. And then to make the insult complete, Paullus renamed himself Macedonicus, the conqueror of Macedonia. Eclectus had visited Epirus right after it had been sacked and had seen the Roman legion with its brutality. He returned to Sparta a changed man. He went to the king upon his arrival and told about the Roman brutality and delivered a fine speech on how Sparta allowed this to happen to fellow Greeks. The king turned a deaf ear and sent Eclectus away. After that incident he'd neglect his duties, training and would sit around for days in front of the fireplace with a cup of wine. One night, having spent several days like this, he lifted himself out of his chair and dropped the bronze cup onto the floor. I immediately rose from the couch in the corner of the room to pick it up, but he gestured me to leave it. I'll never forget what followed. He turned to me and stared deep into my eyes. His stare was unforgiving, unyielding, hard and cold as steel, in short: Spartan. He silently said, “Tomorrow I leave.” The unexpected words needed a few moments to sink into my drowsy mind and stir up any sort of emotion. Feeling too sleepy to fully comprehend the meaning of his words I was so bold as to ask him whereto. He didn't answer. He simply nodded and walked towards his small bedroom.
Before he entered it, he stopped in the door and said, “Make sure you have an entire travel pack standing ready for me and a horse. Also a donkey with provisions. It will be a long voyage.” I was surprised at this because it was rare for my master to travel far without even reporting it first to the council. Still, as a slave I had no rights, and so I kept my tongue. Today I wish I hadn't. I should have asked and forced an answer out of him. It would have prevented so much death and anguish! But it is too late today. It has happened. That night proved to be the start of a catastrophic war for Sparta… …and Rome. *** You can purchase the entire book on Amazon.com here: http://amzn.to/1ckax2s
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