For Rome

Then horrid, grotesque questions twisted in my stomach like a knife:

But what of the enemy? Do their deaths count for less than mine? Am I sure they deserve to die? Who am I to decide their fate? We have lost battles to them before, who is to say it will not occur again? Do the Gods love me so much to spare me? Or shall I be lost to martyrdom?

I looked around at the men, and some of them were like me, I knew. All colour had drained from their faces, great dark bags hanging below their eyes - they had not slept a wink. Young Plautus, a boy of no more than fifteen, was positively green, gazing blankly at the sand. A Priest of Mars came along and invited him to pray, but the boy turned away. Instead, he marched into his tent and emerged moments later with shield in hand, his sword sheathed in its scabbard and his helmet on his head, glinting in that African sun. He was still frightened, I knew, but it seemed he had accepted whatever the Fates had in store for him.

What I would give for such courage.

Then my attention turned to Flavius, our commander. He was by far the loudest of the men that morning. He had fought in countless battles, his body scarred from head to toe, but this was his first against the Carthaginians, and by Jupiter was he looking forward to it. His grandfather, his father and his two brothers had all fallen by the spears of Carthaginian soldiers - if any Roman had reason to want to drive his steel through Hannibal’s heart, it was him.

But not me, I realised. I did not know these people. I did not know their lands. They had never done me any harm. Their lives posed no threat to my little farm in Mediolanium.





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