Marcus Aurelius Marci
My name is Marcus Aurelius Marci – I am a Centurion of the mighty army of Rome.
What rot hole do I find myself in these days. This glorious province of Britannia – my chance to climb the ranks of the wondrous Legions of Rome. Although I have not done bad for myself. I arrived here over thirty years ago as a foot soldier – the most senior man in my contubernium – but I get ahead of myself. How I came from the dusty streets of a village near Napoli called Pompeii to this cold damp town of Winchester on this far off soil.
I grew up the second son of my father Marci. He was a middle class citizen of Rome – a minor official in our village of Pompeii. His duties to the Empire was to track the ownership of slaves in the households of the village. Life was not terribly hard on us – although my older brother got all the perks of being a government officials son. He was permitted to the schools in Napoli across the harbor – while I wound up serving the Emperor in his Legions. As a second son – I had to make my own mark in my world.
I have not looked back to Pompeii since I enlisted – that was the second year of the reign of Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. (43 AD). He came to power rather oddly – he was proclaimed Emperor by the Praetorian Guard of Rome after the assassination of his predecessor Caligula.
I attended training near Rome. A good three days walk from the bay near Napoli. Upon arrival I was given a ration of wheat bread and wine. Allowed to bed on straw near the stables. The following morning we were placed in our contubernium and put on a twenty mile hike – at a five hour pace. I thought I would die with the heat and the thirst that wrenched my body by the time we returned to camp. We did that daily for weeks before we were finally allowed to start actual weapons training. (Vegetius)
Weapons training was conducted using heavy wooden shields and swords. These training weapons were twice as heavy as the real metal ones we were eventually allowed to use. Our days consisted of marching, fighting, marching, and fighting some more. Little time was left for sleep or eating – that we learned to do on the move. After our training we were marched the 1,044 miles to Calais. From there is was by boat to Britannia. It was then I experienced my first battle.
Fear does not readily describe what I felt as we marched upon the swamps of Britannia.
The shouts of orders from our officers – the yells of the enemy – the screaming of the wounded and the dying. All added to the organized chaos of that day. I found myself holding my shield in the turtle as we had been taught. Holding my spear out front and feeling my arm nearly jerked from the shoulder as the first body was impaled on the spear. The smell of sweat, blood, and fear was everywhere. We marched on over the corpses of fallen comrades and those of the enemy. There was no time to tend to the wounded – that would come later. An officer grabbed my shield from me late that afternoon and thrust the Signum in my hands.
The Signum was our emblem of the legion. This was the rally point for the soldiers and the point of which all communication would come to for the ongoing battle. I was now the Signifer for the Legion. (Roman Army). Not yet a full day in battle and I had been promoted. Now standing besides the officers of the Legion. It was to me all eyes stayed upon through the battle. Although I no longer had my shield and weapons – I felt more protected than any soldier on the field that day.
That was over thirty years ago. Since that first day on these cursed shores of Britannia. Over the years we have marched on countless barbarian towns. We have laid siege to hundreds of cities and defeated them all. The names of the brothers in arms have all slipped into my faded memory. Their faces lost in the shadows of last nights candles.
Through bravery in battle – and political favors from those who owed me favors over the years – I find myself at the rank of Centurion. In our army – it is not always on what you do that you gain recognition. It is in who you know that also adds to the mantle of respectability and growth. All that is behind me now.
There is nothing now but this village on the banks of the Thames. Winchester. It will amount to little more than a future pit of forgotten souls. But still – as a loyal Centurion of Rome – I will defend her. Although I will never realize the rank of Legatus Legionis – supreme commander of the legion, being a Centurion is not bad. Not for the second son of a low level government official in a small Roman village.
In the morning I was planning on taking my pension and returning to the village of my youth. I would go home a hero of the Empire. A place of respect in any Roman villa.
Those thirty seven year dreams of mine came to a crashing end a few hours ago. With the arrival of my replacement from Rome – also came news of Rome.
It would seem that our small volcano had something to say about my plans of the simple life in a Villa. On the two month anniversary of our new Emperor – Titus Flavius
Caesar Vespasianus Augustus (79 AD) – Vesuvius destroyed my childhood home and all her residents in a matter of hours. (Timeline). There is no home to return to – there is no brother to gloat over with my accomplishments. There is nothing now.
Nothing but this village of barbarians on this damp cold soil that I have called home for the last thirty seven years. Winchester, Britannia. I guess home from now on…..
Roman Army. (2002). The Roman Army Page. “IMPERIAL SERVICE GUARANTEES CITIZENSHIP WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE ?” Retrieved on 14 March 2009, from, http://members.tripod.com/~S_van_Dorst/legio.html#organisation
Timeline. (2009). Thinkquest. “Roman Timeline”. Retrieved 14 March 2009, from,
Vegetius. (2009). The Illustrated History of The Roman Empire. Military Training. Retrieved on 14 March 2009, from, http://www.roman-empire.net/army/training.html