General Gaius was a burly man in his mid fifties. He was reviewing some dispatches when Arturos and Cornelius entered his tent.
“Gentlemen, stand at ease,” said the General. He read for another minute or so. Then he stood up, walked around the table and greeted both men with the shake of their hands. “Centurion, you have come highly recommended from your last commanding officer and Tribune Arturos. Also, I believe I met your father one time or another.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“You are probably wondering how you have rated the senior rank of Primus Pilus at your age?”
“The thought did occur, sir.”
The General walked over to a large map of Palestine and the surrounding region. “Our Governor General is the prefect of this entire region.” The General was gesturing on the map from north area of the Lebanon all the way down to the Red Sea and Egyptian border of Gaza. “Do you see the problem?”
“Sir, that is a large area to cover with only our twelve cohorts that we brought in plus the eight cohorts that were already here.” Arturos said.
“Precisely, gentlemen. The territory is about the size of over a fourth of Italy but worst since the entire eastern border is open with the Jordan River valley as the only natural barrier. The main problem for the moment is not external. It is internal,” he said tapping in the Judean part of the map.
“This country is riddled with rebellion,” said the General as he sat back at his table. He picked up a scroll and opened it. “According to this, our forces had to quell about thirty uprisings since the old Herod died. The last one was just two years ago. An upstart called Bar-Jesus who claimed to be the Jews’ messiah was able to recruit the gullible fanatics… they call themselves zealots… and it were they that almost brought the populace to rebel almost successfully that the eastern trade to the empire was disrupted. It was by sheer luck that this Bar-Jesus was inept in his own country’s politics. It was the greed of the Jewish leadership that gave up his hide out and we were able to quash this rebellion. A thousand crucifixions still line the north caravan road to Jerusalem. But most of the zealots have blended back among the masses. We don’t know who they are.”
“This is where you come in, Cornelius” said Arturos.
“Me? How so, sir?”
“The Tribune came to us and said that not only can you speak the language of the Jews but you have a working knowledge of their culture and religion. An education that took up most of your youth. That makes you an expert. With what your former commander have written on his assessment of your command capabilities and your specialized education, the Governor had approved your advancement and commissioning you with a very important assignment.”
“General, I am gratified to serve. What are my orders, sir?”
“The Emperor Tiberius has his eyes on us. Pontus Pilate must succeed in not just subjugating this province but to prosper it. He will need up to date intelligence. He must not be caught unaware like his predecessor. You requested to garrison in the region of Galilee. That is good. That area is currently a hotbed of zealot activity. Root them out, Centurion. Establish a base of operation there. Get us that intelligence. The Governor will be at Caesarea Philippi for a year or so. Then he will take residence in Jerusalem.” He reached into a drawer and took out a short white baton with a silver wolf emblem on its crown and handed it to Cornelius. “This will give you governorial authority to make request of any military command in this region.” He hands a sealed leather bound packet. “Here are your orders and signet ring. Any questions?”
“Where will you be, General?”
“While the Governor is up north, I will be at the port city of Caesarea down south. I will sail with the fleet in a forth night. Dismissed, gentlemen.”
Cornelius and Arturos saluted and then exited his tent.
As they were walking slowly back to their respective tents, Arturos broke the silence. “Well, Cornelius, it seems that you got your wish to be assigned in the Galilee region. I’m a little concerned about this assignment. This assignment can make or break your career. The General didn’t say it outright but the implication is clear. Failure is not an option especially for you. And lately, I could not help but notice that you have been occupied with something.”
Cornelius paused and was about to reveal his thoughts but instead… he said, “No problems, Tribune. I will not fail.”
“Very well, Cornelius. The gods seem to favor you. So, let us hope that you will be successful in all the things you do.”
‘The gods,’ thought Cornelius. In his mind, he really is having a hard time believing that the gods have any influence at all. In about a week from now, he will be in a land where the people were given a promise of true hope by a god that supposedly has no equal. He will find out the truth.
The story continues on in my next post a week from now.
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