SPEARS AND SHIELDS – Gadara
Then the trumpets were sounded. It was the call for assembly. Cornelius jumped out of his seat and Jacob helped him with his armor. As he put on his furred cloak against the cold, he told Jacob to get the boy and stay in their quarters. Cornelius quickly went out of his tent and ran into Flavius. They both rushed to the assembly area.
The legionnaires stood at their respective formation facing a raised wooden platform. Cornelius joined Tribune Arturos as he and two other officers were mounting the platform.
“Legionnaires!” Arturos called all of them to attention. “Our eastern patrol had returned and they reported that the enemy is on the march. They are marching toward us.” The men cheered with enthusiasm. Cornelius knew the men were eager for a fight after four boring months of tedious training and patrols. “We shall meet this force and we shall prevail!” The men cheered even louder.
Arturos went back into his command tent with Cornelius and the other officers in tow. “Gentlemen, our scouts counted over seven thousand men; five thousand of which are the Nubians. We have over fifteen hundred plus three hundred cavalry. We have another five hundred from the city garrison which we will use as reserves. I have sent fast riders to Gerasa which is two hours away by horse. We can expect their cavalry of one thousand to reach us in four. Their infantry will not arrive in time. Aretas will know this. So, he will hit us and try to overwhelm us before reinforcement arrives. If he succeeds, it would not matter if our forces arrive later, because by then he would fortify Gadara.”
Going over to a map stretched out on an easel, it showed a detailed rendering of the terrain east of the Hellenic city of Gadara. Arturos pointed right at some markings that he earlier made. That part of the map showed a long valley flanked by two high ridges.
“We will meet them here at this narrow gap! This valley is the shortest route for them to get to Gadara. They will have no choice but to attack our positions there. We have to hold until reinforcements.”
Two hours later, the two cohorts were in battle formation in the narrowest part of the valley. Rising left and right of the gap were sheer sloped terrain. Though the sloped terrain was not impossible to climb, it would take too long and it would be costly, for Arturos positioned his archers supported by auxiliary units from the city garrison on both slopes. Cornelius saw that the gap between the two slopes was narrow enough for only four hundred men to stand a breast of each other. This was perfect for a defensive position. Though the enemy greatly out numbered them by almost three to one, they can only commit several hundreds at a time. And to add more chaos into the mix, the legionnaires quickly dug up a four foot wide and three foot deep ditch that stretch from one slope to the other. To hide the ditch from the enemy a single line of soldiers will stand before it. The plan was that on the initial attack, the first line will be signaled to withdraw down into the ditch and back up into the main body. Fortunately, they finished the ditch as the enemy came into sight at the other end of the valley.
Arturos and Cornelius were standing on a level ledge half way up the North slope watching Aretas’ army form up in attack formation. They could just make out their counterparts putting up a pavilion on a small ridge behind their units.
“By the gods, Cornelius,” Arturos quietly said nervously. “I have to tell you my mouth is dry and my insides are shaking! I am afraid.”
“I would be even more concerned if you were not.”
Arturos looked at him. “Are you afraid? You do not look it.”
“Of course? Every good soldier would be, even veterans. We just do not show it.”
“Well, Centurion? I am only too glad that you are here with me today.”
The attack started.
The story continues on in my next post.
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