THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch16 – part 6

SPEARS AND SHIELDS – GadaraCG-book-cover-w

The attack started. Cornelius noted that Aretas was committing his Nubian mercenaries and holding back his Arab contingent. The Nubian warriors were known for their ferociousness. He had seen captured warriors fight in the arena. Their attacks are fast and relentless. Even when badly wounded, they would press on. Nubians are lightly armored, preferring leather than bronze. Speed and agility are their advantage. Their shields are light, covered with a thick hide but not good enough to stop an iron tipped arrow. Their primary weapon is a short spear that is really two weapons in one. It is not a throwing spear. It has a ten inch long leaf shaped blade, able to be used like a sword. At the other end of the shaft is a round ball made of solid bone able to crush heads even with helmets on. They also carried two long throwing spears.

Before the Nubians moved forward, they sang a rhythmic eerie song and beat their weapons against their shields. After about twenty minutes, they all shouted in a high pitch scream and surged forward at a dead run. There was no formation. They intend to use their numbers to quickly overwhelm the defenders. When they were about a hundred yards, several whistles sounded, signaling the first line to quickly retreat. At the same time, the archers let loose their deadly rain. Hundreds fell. But Cornelius saw not enough mainly because they only had two hundred archers. It was too bad that they did not have time to set up even one of the three balistras that were still back at the fort. One could launch a thousand arrows a shot.

At twenty yards, the front elements threw their first spears. The legionnaires training and discipline kicked in. The shields of the front line faced forward forming a tight wall while all the lines behind lifted and locked their shields to form an impenetrable shell. Most of the spears bounced off harmlessly, but a few found its mark as Cornelius noted a few screams within the ranks.

The Nubian front lines sped up. Their tactics against the Roman shell were for the first elements to bodily throw themselves to collapse the shield wall in the initial hit allowing the other rushing ranks to swarm through the breach. This was an effective tactic used against the Legions in the past. This day, however, Arturos’ cohorts have a weapon borrowed from the Greeks a suggestion offered by Cornelius during the planning stages some months back. The front howling ranks of Nubians incredibly leaped the dug trench but were surprised to find hundreds of stout twenty foot long spears jutting out through the tightly pact shields. Though a few missed the spears, most were pinioned on them screaming in agony. The shield wall held.

As the next ranks had to contend with jumping into and trying to fight their way out of the ditch, a loud signal was sounded then together the shell opened up and hundreds of deadly javelins were thrown from the cohort’s second to the fifth ranks. From his high vantage point, Cornelius saw the forward momentum pause as the next ranks of hundred of men fell back by the javelin onslaught. It was like a giant scythe swept right through them.

During this respite, another signal was given and the tired first and second ranks retreated to the rear as a fresh new shield wall were formed by the rested third and fourth lines. By then, the whole length of the ditch was filled to the brim with dead and dying of both sides but mostly of theirs. This time, the Nubians came forward slowly in line formation. They had to walk on their dead and dying comrades and hit the shield wall again. Cornelius noted the rear ranks break off left and right to scale the sloped sides. Several times they were repulsed by the archers and the auxiliary units who threw stones and boulders down on them but yet they still came.

Then Cornelius heard his name called from below.

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The story continues on in my next post.

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