ALEXANDER
Alexander the Great goes ashore in Asia (Minor). Artwork  by Tom Lovell.
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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Continued from PART I

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I go on with some more text from my historical novel “Rome must be destroyed ” which belongs to the sub-category of Historical Fiction. For more info and text, read PART I. A reminder of the plot: Alexander the Great has not died in 323 BC (year of his death in reality). He goes on living and invades Italy, Carthage and the Western Mediterranean. The peoples of those regions (Italians, Carthaginians, Libyans, Celtiberians, Gauls and many others) fight against him under the leadership of Rome, Carthage and Samnium. The hero of my book is not a Greek but a Roman (Aelius Sembronius Vulca), originally a mercenary of Alexander and then an enemy of him. After a series of diplomatic and strategic detours, bloody battles and –finally – total warfare, the war results…..
The first part of the novel (Sogdiana) takes place in the steppes of Central Asia (modern Uzbekistan), the second part (Return) in Italy, the third (Carthage) in Carthage, the fourth and the fifth……
This is the first book of a trilogy that I wrote on this subject.

I apologize in case that the translation in English is not ”literary” enough (or maybe it is!). Copyright is mine, thereby for a probable reproduction of this text, please send to me an e-mail message.

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SOGDIANA

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All the barbarians were dead, except two women. The older one had the common Asiatic appearance. Her heavy wound indicated that she was running out of time. The other woman had an uncanny beauty, a real temptation for us men from the Inner Sea. She was young and diminutive. We were impressed by her narrow slanted eyes that looked like reptilian, her protruding cheek bones in her face below the eyes, her small slender nose and her very pale, almost yellow skin. Her body which was silhouetted below her thin leather dress, appeared to be well formed. Her breasts were small, but firm and well rounded.

I knew that most of the Sauromatae people resembled in appearance to the Asiatics. I now verified from this woman and her other dead comrades, that some resembled to the Serae and the Phryni who live afar in the East, beyond India, around a large Yellow river as they call it. I have seen a few Serae merchants at Farthest Alexandria. They had the same strange appearance and the same yellowish skin. The local Sogdians speaking about them, say that they are exceptionally civilised, their kingdoms are powerful and their armies are worthy of the Greek ones. They may say it to tease the Macedonians!
Volsinius the Campanian who had captured her, was most enchanted by the reptilian-eyed woman.
“That is my trophy!” said with joy. He could not wait for the moment to enjoy her. He dragged her holding her stiffly by the hair, whilst she pounded and kicked him. Three of the soldiers, who were passionately looking at her, approached the young girl. They wanted to taste her … If they wanted her Volsinius was unable to deny. He had the right to enjoy the woman first and keep her for his own, after the others had done with her. However the Italian mercenary did not want to share the girl and he was holding tightly his bloodstained spear. Centauros who had seen the threatening situation spoke.
“We don’t have time for this. We are leaving immediately! “.
“We won’t be long Centauros …” said Numerius.
“The Sauromatae we killed were few. They surely belong to a larger raiding party. Somewhere, close by, more enemies are lurking…. “


“Centauros… Please! We haven’t seen women for weeks …” Numerius continued insisting but I interrupted him abruptly.
“Shut up! Wounded, but I am still your leader! Everyone who shall contradict again my lieutenant will be lashed for insubordination! … We’re leaving immediately! ”
Volsinius smiled. Since the other men had not enjoyed the girl there, this would never happen. He alone would taste this exotic fruit.
“What about her? ” Centauros asked me, pointing to the other Sauromatian woman.
“Leave her… She’ll die by midday. ”
“We cannot risk it, commander. If she mounts some stray horse, she may ride and meet the Massagetae betraying our direction and condition.”
“Finish her off” I ordered him and turned to mount my horse.
Centauros drew his sword and grabbed the dying woman by the hair.
Suddenly, Volsinius’ captive began to scream, pulling at her hair! Her master barely contained her. The woman that was about to die was insistently pointing at the girl.
“Volsinius, shut the bitch up!” said Lasthenes. “She’ll bring the Massagetae here!”
“Centauros wait …” I said. “She wants to die by the hand of her comrade. Give your sword to the girl.”
The lieutenant  looked at me awkwardly.
“What are you waiting for, Centauros ? It’s an order! ”
The Thessalian handed his sword to the yellowish woman who stopped screaming. Volsinius let her go whilst simultaneously an archer of mine was targeting her with an armed bow, in case she attempted to use the sword against us. She may have appeared diminutive and weak, but we had seen her during the battle disembowelling one of our comrades and wounding badly another one. She moved slowly, knelt in front of her comrade in arms and began to weep. The other woman spoke to her in their incomprehensible language. The girl replied with a murmur, which sounded like a prayer. She then touched the point of the sword to the breast of the dying woman. She was calm; she closed her eyes, swallowed with difficulty and waited. The girl hesitated for a moment. Suddenly, she plunged the blade with all her strength, with the weight of her body, deep into the heart of her companion! She then fell to the ground crying with sobs. Volsinius quickly moved on her before anyone else does. He grabbed her, bound her hands and mounted her on a horse that followed his. The girl didn’t stop crying….

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RETURN

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I could not fall asleep. Turnus’ snoring made the situation worse.
I came out of our tent and walked to the edge of the camp. I greeted the night guard who was half asleep on his feet, supported on his spear with both hands, which had buckled from the weight. I was in a good mood tonight and pretended not to notice. After all we were at home, even if not in Roman territory yet. I saw that he was relieved to avoid punishment … The forest is even more beautiful in the evening. The pale moonlight produced shadows and shapes, demons and agathodemons, Satyrs and Maenads… I recalled the tales of my grandfather on the Satyrs and the Selenes, the Centaurs and the Stymphalian birds, on that goat-shaped Arcadian god who is also worshipped by my Etruscan brothers … Pan! I closed my eyes and dreamed about him. I saw the god running amongst the leafy trees with the thick trunks, carefree, cheerful, playing his music, the melodies of the shepherds. For a moment I believed that I’d heard his flute… The hoof prints of the boars in front of me, came really from them or maybe from the feet of the goat-footed god? I sensed that he was watching me from behind the foliage.
The forest itself is Pan! It has eyes, ears, life!

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VIII [Chapter]

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That morning I was walking through the streets of Rome. I had taken this walk on many occasions since my return; I was never sated with my seven hilled city.
It was impressive without the meticulous buildings with the ornate decorations of the Etruscan and the Greek cities, or the voluminous monuments of the Egyptian and Asiatic metropolises. Its seven natural hills were its own monuments and the reputation of its warriors in the Inner Sea was its adornment.
I decided to visit the Circus Maximus, the Great Stadium, located below my family home on the side of the Palatine hill. The chariot races and the gladiatorial combats took place there, spectacles due to which the Greeks call as barbarians. They criticise us for compelling people to slaughter one another, whilst we – men and women – are thrilled by the inhuman spectacle as they call it. On the other hand, the Romans, the Samnites and the other Italians mock at the childish doings of the Greeks at the Olympics of the Peloponnesus, the Pythians and the other strange games. Their athletes – as they’re referring to them – run or throw balls, spears and discs. For the sake of who shall reach the end of the stadium first or who shall throw the spear furthest, as if they were children! What is the meaning of this? Do they do it for the laurel wreath with which their elders crown the victors at the end of the games? ; Or for the glory that the victor’s city derives? A Roman does not understand this! He wants to see the sand of the stadium becoming red mud from the blood of men who shall fight decisively to the death … for their very life! Not for laurels and rosemary.
How many things separate us and the Greeks … The world cannot hold us both …
I ascended the Capitoline hill, our strong acropolis, the only place that the Gauls had not captured seventy years ago. From there I marvelled at the extent of Rome. That geographer, whom I met at Babylon, had told me that my city is one of the ten largest cities in the world – and he wasn’t wrong. Despite the continual wars it grew larger and larger, and the Senate even considered extending its walls so that it would embrace more neighbouring hills which would provide the living space. I looked around me, at the valley around Rome. How much beauty! To the north, beyond the river, the blessed land of Etruria, studded with hills and marshes. To the south, the rich fields of Latium. Various crops produced different shades of green in every field; and their sum created the magnificent mosaic of the Latin country. At least three cities were visible far away; in older days when the atmosphere was cleaner, more were visible. Rome had grown even more while I was away in Asia. The dust that was raising everyday by its innumerable residents, the slaves that were working in its yards and streets, and the merchants who transported their goods by cart, had lessened visibility.
To the west, the mouth of the Tiber River appeared; and Ostia, our newly built port. A merchant city like Rome could not lack a secure port on the coast. The foreign maritime merchants and ship owners had complained for many years over the fact that they had to sail up the Tiber on every occasion to reach the city and conduct their trade. The Senate listened to their complaints and founded this harbour which as I have learned, has doubled the income of my city. However my people had never felt comfortable at sea; and I don’t believe this will ever change… Despite the existence of Ostia, at this moment two ships were sailing up the Tiber. Watching their sails I cognized that the one was a Phoenician merchant vessel and the other an Iberian one. The latter was suffering from the river current having broken loose from the control of its crew, which was frantically running up and down the deck to contain it so that it would not stuck on the river banks. The Iberians also will never become sailors of worth…
I knew it. Their ship stuck on the bank  and the Phoenicians behind them were now sailing to their aid. Always with a view to a profit!

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Romans vs Greeks
Artwork copyright: Igor Dzis. (I.Dzis and J.Shumate happen to be my favourite artists after Angus McBride’s death)

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(The following text comes from the fourth and fifth parts – the most extensive of my book.

Vulca being now a Consul of Rome is one of the leading generals of the allied army who confront the Greek invasion.)
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I restrained the men, waiting for Alexander to make the first move. For quite a while no one moved. Only some of the rival combatants had begun to shout abuse and threats at one another. I heard some stray threats. Some Romans were shouting at the Sicilian Greeks opposite to them, that they would boot them out back to Greece once and for all! They responded shouting that Rome would suffer the same fate as Troy, its mother-city….
The temper had heated up, more and more abuse and threats could be heard from both sides, yelling was coupled with a deafening din from the swords and spears that the warriors pounded upon their shields; it was a pandemonium! I had taken part in many battles, but here the hatred for the enemy and the passion for victory had overflowed.
The Gauls on our side had not understood a word of anything that had been said. However this pandemonium was their speciality. They waved around and around their swords in anger shouting in their crude language incomprehensible threats at the Greeks and the Asiatics.
A phrase began to be heard on our side. In the beginning it was uttered by one or two legionaries.
“No prisoners! … ”
It was slowly repeated by more combatants.
In a short while it could be heard along our entire battle line, which was shaking by the yelling! But not only by our warriors! The phrase had shortly been also transmitted to the Macedonian side, like a spark that flares up in the dry grass and intensifies becoming a glowing fire! Italians and Iberians, Greeks and Thracians, Celts and Asiatics, everyone shouted the same words with the same passion …
“No prisoners! No prisoners! No prisoners! …”
It was the right time for the feast to begin. Alexander understood this first: his Companion cavalry began the attack. I immediately gave order to Gaesatorix to encounter with his riders the Macedonians!
The two opposing forces were riding with a momentum; their horses were galloping all the faster as they were approaching the field of death … Their crash was terrifying! I saw a horse twist once in the air before it fell to the ground. I could not see Alexander … My breath was cut when I saw Gaesatorix fall! …. Suddenly, I saw him get up; and then…. forcefully grabbed a Companion by his foot and threw him down stealing his horse.
Our cavalry held firm as a rock and the tough Companions were unable to rout them. The Macedonian phalanx began also the attack, together with the Thessalian cavalry on the left flank. The entire Greek line was now moving against us! I didn’t want my legionaries to be discouraged by this frightening spectacle. I drew my long sword, kissed its blade and took up my position behind the third line. The enemy phalanx began to move slowly, then a little faster and then faster.
“Keep it calm!” I said to my men. “Don’t be afraid! Calmly … Maintain your positions!”. My legionaries remained absolutely still, in the manner that we Romans use to intimidate the enemies with our composure and to demonstrate our disregard for them. Many of the hastati and the principes swallowed with difficulty, but kept standing as firm as statues. Only the dense black or red crests of thick horse hair on top of their helmets were fluttering in the northern breeze. They had firmly fixed their red, yellow and blue scuta – their huge shields – into the ground. Their spears were in a position of readiness with the spear heads facing forward, thirsty for enemy blood!
The wall of the Greek shields opened up every now and then, so that the Agrianian javelin throwers and the Rhodian slingers could pop out discharging their deadly missiles, before they again disappear as suddenly as they had appeared behind the protection of their comrades’ shields; like the adder that returns into its coil of security after injecting poison into its victim. Our young javelin throwers, archers and slingers who were freely running amongst the legionaries, emerged in the same manner in front of our lines discharging their arrows, javelins and sling-stones, before again taking cover behind the Italian shields.
Many Macedonians fell dead to these missiles and also to the huge stones from the catapults on our first line, but they continued to approach us at a faster pace.
A little bit closer and… a little more and…. the phalanx clashed loudly with our legions! People were tossed into the air by the ferocious collision! Spears and shields were shattered! The blood sprinkled even the rear lines of my legionaries. A savage struggle had started. The Greeks were atrociously pushing forward with their sarissa lances and the Italians responded with showers of javelins again and again….

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GLOSSARY

(a part of it)

Asiatics: that is how the Greeks called the peoples of Middle East and Central Asia (the Asians)
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Companion cavalry: Alexander’s elite cavalry consisted of Macedonian nobles. The Thessalian cavalry was also an equally elite force.
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The Inner Sea: the Mediterranean
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Marakanda: modern Samarkand in Uzbekistan.
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Sauromatae: a nomad Iranian people living north of the Massagetae. They were the ancestors of some subsequent Sarmatian tribes giving their name to the whole Sarmatian group. Some of their women were fighting together with their men; maybe this was the background for the legend of the Amazons.
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Serae and Phryni: that is how the Greeks called the Chinese and the Turko-Mongols respectively.
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thanks for your  support,
Periklis Deligiannis
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