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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Part 1: The War in the Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, The Regime Change

HistoryDude

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Emperor Justinian sighed. His father had just passed away. He was sad, but now was no time to mourn. The Eastern Roman Empire looked to him as Emperor now. He needed to lead it.
His father had told him of his network of allies (subjects, really). He knew that using them would aid him greatly. He decided to look through his father’s work. A lot of it was already done, but it would be a good way to find out what the state of the Empire actually was.

He dismissed his “allies”, but he also told them to stay in the city. Then, he looked through his father’s papers. Much of it was uninteresting, but there was a letter asking for aid from the Legio IV Italica, warning of the treachery of most of the Legio I Armeniaca. Justinian frowned. That was bad news, but hardly surprising. He knew that the loyalists had ultimately emerged victorious, but the Italian campaign had failed.

He quickly wrote a letter to Odoacer, asking for a status quo ante bellum peace. He knew that Odoacer would accept - that was a better peace deal than he had been expecting. But Emperor Justinian knew that many of Odoacer’s subjects were getting restless. He could deal with Odoacer later, when Odoacer was in a worse position. Emperor Justinian wasn’t about to change Alexios’s assignment, especially considering how successful it had been.

However, the new Emperor did have a plan. Many of the Empire’s subjects wished to serve in the army, and, therefore, to aid in the restoration of the glory of Rome. He could take advantage of this sentiment. He could use it to rebuild both the Legio I Armeniaca and the Legio IV Italica. But he could also use it to create more legions. “Yes,” he thought. “Increasing the amount of standing armies that my empire has at its disposal will be useful. Very useful. It would eliminate many of the advantages a surprise attack would grant, and it would make offensive wars be won much quicker.”

However, he knew of which states he was going to attack. The Sassanids would attack quickly. They always did whenever the Eastern Roman Empire was thought to be vulnerable. Therefore, he would surprise them. He would attack them before they could attack him - they wouldn’t expect that.

The Goths in Cherson had apparently also given monetary aid to the coalition during the civil war that occurred in his father’s reign. Emperor Justinian couldn’t allow that action to go unpunished. If he did, then other states would get the idea that interfering in Eastern Roman civil conflicts was an action that could be done with impunity. Encouraging that could very well bring about the downfall of the Eastern Roman Empire entirely. No, those Crimean Goths had to be punished. War would be brought to them, and they would be forced to swear allegiance to him.

There was to be a war on two fronts. His new legions would help with that, but utilizing his network of allies was also a good idea, but which allies would do what? He mulled over that question for a while, and, then, he made a decision.

He called his three main allies to the Imperial Palace. They arrived quickly, which was good. It meant that they had probably obeyed his orders not to leave the city.

“Right,” Emperor Justinian began. “I’m sure that you’re wondering why I have called you here.”

All three men nodded. They all figured that it had something to do with the regime change, but they weren’t sure exactly why they had been called. Each had an idea, but they wanted to be sure.

“Alexios,” he began. “Your assignment shall remain the same. You shall continue to spy on Odoacer and his court. As two legions have been almost completely destroyed on campaign in Odoacer’s realm due to deceit, we know that Odoacer can be devious. You shall continue to spy on Odoacer and encourage dissent amongst his subjects - nobles and commoners alike. Soon, we shall rule Italia, but not yet.”

Alexios nodded. He asked if he could leave to continue with his assignment, and the Emperor answered that he could. He wouldn’t be present when the other “allies” received their assignments, but that was just as well. Alexander was the only person present aware of the things that dwelt in the shadows - other than the Emperor himself, of course - and Emperor Justinian was just fine with keeping his allies in the dark. It ensured that they were less of a threat to him and his rule.

“Now, on to Anastasios,” the Emperor continued. “Do you command the army that your father once commanded?”

Anastasios nodded. That army was personally loyal to Demetrius and his dynasty, and Anastasios was Demetrius’s son and heir.

“Good,” the Emperor said. “That army shall aid the legions when the legions need aid. I advise that you continue to train them, so that they remain good troops.”

Anastasios nodded. Then, he left, after he got permission from the Emperor to do so, of course.

Emperor Justinian smiled. “Both of us know that the shadows hide many things.”

“Yes,” Alexander answered. “Why do we care about that at the moment?”

“I am aware of the existence of the Persian Conspiracy and the coalition that aims to restore the Roman Empire,” Emperor Justinian answered. “We shall attack the Sassanids before they attack us. I believe that the two groups I just mentioned will be happy with this information. Inform them.”

Alexander nodded and left to do his job.

A few months later, Emperor Justinian smiled. The legions had been created and trained. He was prepared for the wars that were about to come.

“We attack at dawn,” he whispered.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Planning for war

HistoryDude

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Emperor Justinian was planning for the wars to come. He had ordered the two Isaurian legions and the Armeniaca to go to the Sassanid border. Hopefully, they could take and hold enough Sassanid territory to force a quick peace. If they couldn’t, then the Emperor would need to make some new plans, but that wouldn’t be for a while yet.

On the northern front, the Scythia had been sent to Cherson. Anastasios’s army was to assist them, and that would hopefully be enough to force the Goths to surrender. Emperor Justinian hoped to force a quick end to both wars, but he especially wanted to force a quick end to the war in Crimea, as he knew that that was possible. The Sassanids were probably expecting or preparing for a war with the Eastern Roman Empire. After all, Persia and whoever happened to be their western neighbors were always at war with each other. That conflict was almost eternal. Emperor Justinian suspected that there was a reason for that, but he didn’t actually care if there was that much.

The Emperor was very worried about a possible attack from Odoacer. That was why the Italica hadn’t been called upon to help with either war. Odoacer was sneaky, and the Emperor figured that he probably wasn’t above invading while the Empire was distracted with other wars. If he wasn’t above bribing entire legions to turn on their comrades, he probably wasn’t above breaking an unofficial truce, either.

Emperor Justinian would’ve been more worried about the situation if there wasn’t a truce, though. He might’ve even stationed multiple legions on the border with the realm Odoacer ruled.

The reason he didn’t do that was simple. For one, there was a truce. However, the main reason was that his armies had been almost utterly destroyed before the disaster at Siscia. In addition, the Emperor had Alexios stirring up dissent in Italia while pretending that he was on Odoacer’s side. Even despite all of this, though, it was better to be safe than sorry. The Legio IV Italica would remain on call, but not deployed.

The Emperor figured that the Goths wouldn’t put up that much resistance. He figured that he could force a quick surrender from them, especially given their lack of allies. He didn’t even need to send many troops to defeat them - they lacked large standing armies. Emperor Justinian figured that as long as he left their way of life alone, they would probably be fine with surrendering their nominal independence.

Emperor Justinian did hope that he could force a quick surrender from the Sassanid Persians, but he wasn’t betting on it. Yes, his current attack plan focused on securing a quick surrender, but that plan hinged on the Sassanids actually being surprised by his attack, and he wasn’t certain that they would be.

That was why he had multiple plans for dealing with the Sassanids. If he couldn’t secure their quick surrender, he’d simply raise more troops and attack them until they were overwhelmed. This plan would also be greatly aided if the Goths in Cherson surrendered before the Sassanids really had a chance to mobilize their troops. Of course, Emperor Justinian did have contingency plans in case neither of the aforementioned plans worked, but he was hoping that it wouldn’t come to those. Some of them were horribly desperate.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Considering the war

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Anastasios considered his options. He was in Crimea, and he needed to know his options. The Emperor had told him that he wanted the Crimean Goths in Cherson to surrender quickly. Apparently, he was worried about the Sassanids, and he wanted to ensure that as many troops as possible were prepared to fight them.

The reason he - and the newly restored Scythian Legion - weren’t currently facing the Sassanids was because the Chief of the Crimean Goths in Cherson had interfered in an Eastern Roman civil war. Emperor Justinian had - rightfully, in Anastasios’s opinion - decided that interfering in the internal matters of the Imperium Romanum was to be heavily discouraged. As such, the Emperor had declared that Cherson was to become Roman territory as punishment for their attempted transgression.

Anastasios was sent to Crimea because his personal army was technically loyal to the Eastern Roman Empire. Actually, it was loyal to his father and his father’s line above all others, which was why he had a personal army in the first place. Regardless, he was loyal to the Empire, and the Emperor had decided that his army was to reinforce wherever the Empire’s other armies were weakest. In this case, only one legion had been sent to Cherson, so he was aiding them.

This arrangement also meant that he needed to run most of his ideas past the commander of the Scythian Legion - who he would learn the name of when he was done making plans. However, the commander of the Scythian Legion would probably follow his lead, as he had more experience in actual war - the new legions had primarily been recruited from veterans of previous wars the Empire had fought in, but Anastasios had helped his father command a mercenary army.

As such, Anastasios had more experience, and, if the commander of the Scythian Legion had any sense - and he probably did, or he wouldn’t have been chosen to command one of the new legions. Anyways, Anastasios figured that he could make plans and alter them as he needed to based on both circumstances and his fellow commander’s opinions.

Anastasios had been to Crimea before, although he wasn’t actually answerable to anybody other than his father then. This shouldn't be too different, if he’d pegged Emperor Justinian’s personality right.

Anastasios figured that the new Emperor didn’t actually care that much about how things got done as much as he cared that things were done. Of course, he would probably like it if said things advanced his plans, and he likely hated when the actions of his vassals actively set back his plans. Anastasios wasn’t certain that Emperor Longinus - and, by extent, his son, Emperor Justinian - hated when his vassals interfered with his plans because his plans had been set back or because it proved that he didn’t actually have absolute control over the Eastern Roman Empire. It didn’t matter which of those things was true, as, regardless of why, interfering with the Imperial Throne’s plans wasn’t likely to end that well for whomever was doing the interfering - even if they weren’t deliberately interfering. Actually, probably especially if they weren’t deliberately interfering because that meant that their incompetence threatened the Imperial Throne.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, The Scythian Campaign begins!

HistoryDude

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Anastasios sighed. This campaign was boring. He really wanted to fight already. If he actually did get to fight, then maybe all of this marching would be worth it. It would actually have a purpose, at least. However, the Crimean Goths were showing no sign of resistance to the Eastern Roman forces.

Anastasios didn’t like the lack of resistance for another reason besides boredom, of course. He worried. The Crimean Goths had been perfectly willing to fight when he was last here, when his father was still alive and led a mercenary army. Many Goths actually liked to fight. Their lack of action made Anastasios worry that they were planning something. He wasn’t actually sure what they were planning, if his suspicions were correct, though, so he couldn’t actually do anything about it.

Anastasios frowned. If he knew that the locals were probably planning something, he should at least attempt to figure out what it was. He’d fought here before, so he knew what some of the terrain was like. There were vast prairie steppes throughout the region, and there were mountains nearby.

What could the locals be planning, though? Did they want to make a last stand in the mountains, hoping that the Eastern Roman army got tired from climbing the mountains? He figured that, while that was possible, it was very unlikely. The Crimean locals weren’t stupid. They would have figured out the problem with that plan - namely, that the Eastern Romans could always simply choose not to climb up the mountains.

Of course, the Eastern Roman army simply not engaging might be fine with the Crimean Goths. Technically, the locals didn’t need the Eastern Romans to fight them. They could win the conflict by not fighting at all.

However, a battle couldn’t simply be avoided in this war. Anastasios knew that the local chief was aware that he ruled all of Taurica’s southern tip. In order to keep his authority, he would need to protect all of his subjects. He couldn’t simply wait in the mountains because that would still allow the Eastern Romans to take control of all the cities and lands subject to him on the Steppe itself. His honor demanded that he defend all of his lands.

Sure, the Eastern Romans might eventually tire out and retreat from their new possessions in Taurica if he simply waited in the Crimean Mountains, but he wouldn’t wait. If he waited, he would be abandoning many of his subjects, and he would not do that. If he abandoned some of his subjects, his vassal chiefs might worry that he’d abandon their lands, as well. This would almost certainly result in his overthrow or the destruction of the realm.

Anastasios figured that the Crimean Goths from Cherson were simply preparing to make a last stand against the Eastern Roman Empire. It would likely fail, but their chief didn’t really have any choice. If he didn’t gather all of his men to fight in one large battle, he’d have to divide his army. That would merely ensure that he was destroyed piecemeal. Anastasios figured that he wanted to face his realm’s destruction with dignity.

Anastasios looked over the Steppes. They were all the same. Finally, he looked ahead. He saw a city. That wasn’t the main thing that caught his attention, though. In front of the city was an enormous army. The Eastern Roman army stopped. “Finally,” Anastasios thought. “I was getting really bored with the lack of action”.
 
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Just started to read through this and wanted you to know of my presence. Keep it up. Looking forward to catching up all the way soon.

Cheers!
 
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HistoryDude

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Just started to read through this and wanted you to know of my presence. Keep it up. Looking forward to catching up all the way soon.

Cheers!

Thanks! Might take a while...
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, The Battle of Kimmerikon, Part 1

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Sorry about yesterday lacking an update. Here's an extra long update to make up for it... Also, don't forget to vote in the H1 ACAs!



Anastasios turned to the other commander. Priscus led the new Legio IV Scythia, and Anastasios figured that he should run his plan by his co-commander before he did anything. Miscommunications - or simple lack of communication - had destroyed many armies. That had even been the cause of Cannae, which had almost destroyed the Roman Republic.

Anastasios wasn’t entirely sure which city this was. He was almost certain that he hadn’t ever been here. The Crimean Goths seemed to be using this settlement as a base, but it looked hastily built… Anastasios believed that the city would surrender quickly if the army defending it was destroyed.

Of course, that raised the question: why was the base of the Crimean Goths here? The site of the city boasted no obvious geographic advantage. It was situated by the sea, but, as far as Anastasios knew, the Crimean Goths possessed no fleet. It was hypothetically possible that they’d built one in the years that had passed since he’d last been here, albeit unlikely.

Anastasios sighed. Perhaps talking with his co-commander would help. Even if they couldn’t figure out why this was where the Crimean Goths were making their stand, they could probably still figure out what their army’s plan of action would be. They had time to plan, as it seemed that the Gothic army had no plan to attack them… or if they did, they weren’t going to attack the Eastern Romans yet.

Anastasios asked Priscus to meet him in his tent. When Priscus wondered why, Anastasios responded that they needed to talk.

Anastasios’s tent was very low-key. It had a bed, where Anastasios slept, but that was pretty much it. There was, however, a lot of empty space in it, so the two commanders of Eastern Roman forces could sit down and talk in it.

“Why did you ask me here?” Priscus asked.

“Two reasons,” Anastasios answered. “The first one is that we need a plan of attack. The second is that we need to figure out what our enemies are planning.”

“Those are good reasons,” Priscus acknowledged. “But why do we need to know what our enemies are planning? We need to make our own plan on how to defeat them, yes, but why will knowing the plan of our opponents help us?”

Anastasios sighed. “If we know what our enemies are going to do, then we can make our own plans that account for their plans. If you know your enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither your enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. That’s from a book on warfare from the Far East, and it’s good advice.”

“Fair point,” Priscus conceded. “So, we know what we must do. Now, how do we do it?”

“In many battles, the plans of the enemy seem somewhat obvious,” Anastasios began. “That isn’t the case here, however. The fortress that the Goths are defending seems hastily built, so it is most likely a base of operations. Why is their base here, though? The site offers no obvious geographical advantages, so why did our enemies establish a base here?”

“I have an idea as to why,” Priscus responded.

“What is it?” Anastasios asked.

“You are thinking in terms of your enemies attempting to use natural occurrences against you,” Priscus began. “However, in bygone eras, as I assume you, at least partially, know of, some states have attempted to create artificial barriers to conquest. Often, this was because they didn’t have another option.”
“Still, why here?” Anastasios interrupted. “Why wouldn’t the Goths attempt to hide in Crimean Mountains? They would likely be safe from our armies there.”

“I was getting to that,” Priscus said. “The Goths know that we want revenge for their interference in our affairs. They know that they can’t escape our wrath, even if they did try to hide in the mountains. We would simply storm up the mountains, and they know - or, at least, believe - that we’d simply send in more troops if we failed to defeat them at first. News travels, of course, but any news of our war with the Sassanids would either have to pass through our lands or the numerous states of the Caucasus, so they’re most likely unaware of the fact that we’re at war with the Sassanids.”

“In short,” Anastasios summed up. “They think that they’re in a much worse situation than they’re actually in.”

“Yes,” Priscus answered.

“Why is this their base, then?” Anastasios asked.

“Remember what I said about artificial barriers to conquest?” Priscus asked.

Anastasios nodded.

“This was once a fortress,” Priscus continued. “It defended the old Bosporan Kingdom from attacks by the Scythians. It had extremely thick walls. The Goths sacked it when they arrived in this area. However, settlement here survived the sack, although the city was ultimately abandoned due to pirates. The Goths are most likely using this area as a base because it used to be a fortress, and they can defend it against any sea-born invaders. That means that they only have to worry about land attacks from the west.”

“That makes sense,” Anastasios noted. “So, all of their forces are in the army in front of us?”

“Most likely, although a few might have been left to defend the walls to the city, which is - or, rather, was - called Kimmerikon,” Priscus nodded.

“How do you know all of this?” Anastasios wondered.

“My ancestors were from Taurica when it was still under Roman rule,” Priscus admitted. “I heard stories of what it was like from them, and I also studied the area in my free time. That is likely one of the reasons why I was chosen to lead the new Scythian Legion. Now, what’s our plan of attack?”

“I don’t actually know that yet,” Anastasios admitted, frowning. “I have a few ideas, though.”

“We can start with that,” Priscus said. “Obviously, our plan shouldn’t be too specific, as we want to allow it to adapt to circumstances on the battlefield.”
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, The Battle of Kimmerikon, Part 2

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Anastasios agreed with that. No plan ever survived contact with the enemy in war. They needed to leave room for improvisation.

“We should try our best to take advantage of the terrain,” Anastasios suggested. “Our enemies will likely try to do the same, at least somewhat.”

“Good point,” Priscus responded. “We know that they are primarily defending from an attack from west of the city… so we could attempt to bypass this army entirely. The question is how do we do that?”

Anastasios considered this plan. Yes, if they could successfully bypass the entire Gothic army, that would be amazing, as it would allow the Eastern Romans to attack from behind, which the Crimean Goths would almost certainly not expect. However, there were downsides to this plan. If the Goths attacked the army before it had moved to their flank, then the Eastern Roman army could very well be nearly utterly annihilated. That would be an unmitigated disaster.

Anastasios voiced these concerns to Priscus. Priscus quickly considered this, and he realized that Anastasios made good points. He frowned. He knew that it would be next to impossible to make a foolproof plan, but he still wanted a plan with as few risks as possible.

“Perhaps,” Priscus began. “We could attempt to flank them, but, if we do that, we should ensure that they believe that we aren’t flanking them.”

“Yes,” Anastasios agreed. “And, to ensure that, we should move our troops at night, when the Goths are likely to be sleeping… to ensure that they believe we couldn’t possibly be attacking from behind them, we should send some soldiers to launch a direct attack upon the Gothic line. If our opponents are distracted fighting for their lives, they will be much less likely to care about where troops are going. They will likely expect all of us to be attacking.”

“Indeed,” Priscus agreed. “This plan is broad enough that it won’t limit what we can do in the actual battle much.”

The Gothic army continued to stand still. They wouldn’t attack, apparently. Many of them were asleep, as night had fallen. And, with darkness as their shield, the vast majority of both Anastasios’s army and the Legio IV Scythia moved north.

The few Gothic soldiers that watched the Kimmorikon’s northern wall noticed the mobile army, and they attacked. The Eastern Roman forces massacred them and continued to move. Soon, they reached the city’s eastern walls, and they attacked the extremely scant forces defending them.

The sun had risen by now, and the few remaining soldiers west of Kimmerikon had awoken. They knew the plan, and so they attacked the large Gothic army. Although they knew that they weren’t meant to win this battle, they fought on anyway. Few men wanted death, although they knew that it would come for them.

Their desperation allowed them to kill many Goths. They held on. After all, if they held on long enough, they might just survive this battle.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the Eastern Roman army broke through Kimmerikon’s eastern walls. They quickly took the city, and, then, they opened up the city’s western walls.

From behind, they attacked the Gothic army. At first, the Goths didn’t notice. However, soon, they began to notice that they were being attacked from behind. Many Goths fled the battlefield while they still could. Others fought on. For four days and four nights, the battle was fought. Finally, the few Goths who hadn’t fled were either captured or killed.

Anastasios and Priscus secured the Gothic chief’s surrender a few days later.

Meanwhile, in the East, the Sassanids and Eastern Romans continued with their age old conflict.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, Mistrust

HistoryDude

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Galerius frowned. He was about to fight against the Sassanids in defense - preemptive defense - of his home in Armenia. Once, during ancient times, a single legion was the only force that was needed to conquer entire realms. Once, the legions of the mighty Roman Empire were feared throughout the known world, and few dared to challenge Roman might. That was before the West fell, perhaps before the Empire was split in half. Galerius dreamt of a return to those glorious days. When some kings would rather kneel to Rome than fight them.

But, despite these memories, Galerius knew that Rome’s glory days were over. Sure, the Emperor wanted to launch a reconquest of the West, but that would drain his resources. Any restoration of Roman glory would take many years, and, perhaps, it would not be worth it.

Galerius was Armenian, and he knew of Rome’s glory days from his father’s - and his grandfather’s - stories. He had read some texts on Rome at its height, as well. But, as much as Galerius knew of Rome’s glory days, he also knew that they were over.

Galerius thought of this as he marched to the border with the Sassanids. His legion, the Legio I Armeniaca, was marching with two other legions. Those legions were the two Isaurian legions, known for their loyalty to the Isaurian dynasty above all. Thankfully, the Isaurian dynasty were the current Emperors, so Galerius almost certainly didn’t have to worry about their loyalties.

Galerius worried, however, about the loyalty of his own legion. Once, most of the Legio I Armeniaca had turned on the Empire recently. They had been fighting in Odoacer’s realm - in the old provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia - and Odoacer had bribed them into becoming traitors. Greed had almost completely destroyed two legions, then.

The once-mighty Legio I Armeniaca had been filled with new recruits due to the war. They were from Armenia, yes, but they weren’t forced to go through the training that most members of the old legion had to. Galerius himself had been promoted in the aftermath of the disaster at Siscia. He was one of the few members of the Armenian Legion that hadn’t turned, despite the promises of much gold.

That event had left Galerius thoroughly distrustful of his own legion. They’d already turned on the Eastern Roman Empire once, so what said that they wouldn’t do so again?

However, Galerius was forced to somewhat trust his legion due to the new war. He decided that he’d have the few legionaires that hadn’t betrayed the Empire during the Siscian fiasco would keep watch over their comrades. They would report any suspicious activity back to him, which would hopefully avoid a repeat of Siscia.

Of course, Galerius needed to plan for battle with his fellow commanders of Eastern Roman legions. Not communicating with them could lead to disaster. When a soldier’s orders contradicted ideas of what would be best in battle, disaster was often the result. Then again, everything had worked out fine the few times that was tried lately, but that was with only two armies, and some of those victories were Pyrrhic ones. Battle approached, and the three legions that would face the Sassanids needed to be prepared.
 
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vandevere

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Interesting. Keeping an eye on this one...
 
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HistoryDude

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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, The Battle of Nusaybin

HistoryDude

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Sorry about the lack of an update yesterday. Here's an extra long chapter to make up for it.


Galerius knew that he needed to speak with his fellow commanders, but doing so meant creating a plan. They were only slightly more than halfway to a border with the Sassanids. They had absolutely no clue where they would be fighting the Sassanids. Any plan would need to be very broad, and they’d need to expand on it later. Galerius would prefer to get all the planning done at once.

However, Galerius didn’t like waiting, and he especially didn’t like doing nothing. Marching required no thought, and Galerius didn’t like days where he didn’t think much. Indeed, he hated days where he did nothing. He wanted to do something, anything, at all times. Unfortunately, that sometimes wasn’t possible.

For a few days, Galerius did manage to do nothing except march. Unfortunately, as those days passed, he got more and more bored. Finally, he decided that he was willing to discuss strategies with his fellow commanders if it broke the infuriating monotony that doing nothing except marching was.

He went to the tents of his fellow commanders. He asked them if they could discuss plans, so that the Sassanids didn’t take advantage of their disorganization. Thankfully, the commanders of the two Isaurian legions did agree to do that.

Both Isaurian legions were commanded by men with white skin and black hair. These men were named Albinus and Clementius. Galerius figured that their ancestors had probably adopted Latin names or that they had migrated to Isauria from elsewhere in the Empire. The only way Galerius could tell the difference between them was by their facial hair. Albinus was clean-shaven, while Clementius had a short beard.

For a long while, the meeting tent was silent. They had decided to meet in Galerius’s tent, given that he was the one who had proposed that they meet in the first place.

Personally, Galerius wasn’t sure what the difference between the two Isaurian legions was. They were both composed of men from the province of Isauria, and, therefore, presumably loyal to the Imperial Throne, if only because the Imperial Throne was Isaurian in the current eon. Maybe the difference was skill? Galerius didn’t really care, but he needed to think about something in the silence.

Finally, Clementius broke the silence, which was beginning to seriously annoy Galerius. “So, why do you think we need to discuss plans?”

“If we don’t discuss plans,” Galerius replied. “Then, our armies will be disorganized, and our enemies could take advantage of that disorganization.”

“True enough,” Clementius mused. “However, we can only make very broad plans. After all, a lot of battles are dependent upon terrain. This also means that we will need to edit - well, expand - our plan later.”

“Why can’t we just attempt to deduce where the Sassanids will attack?” Galerius asked.

Clementius rolled his eyes. “Because our border with the Sassanids stretches across a vast expanse - they could attack anywhere along that border - they could attack in Armenia, Syria, or Arabia. Granted, they will most likely strike along our Armenian border, but that doesn’t really narrow things down much.”

“So, we’ll begin by sending scouts along the Armenian border?” Albinus asked.

“Yes,” Clementius replied. “That should allow us to plan our attack terrain-wise, as they will also be scouting out terrain.”

“Wait,” Galerius began. “What about if there are multiple Sassanid forces?”

“Then, we will attack the strongest one,” Clementius replied.

Galerius frowned. “Why the strongest?”

“Because the stronger one force is, the more of a threat it will be later,” Clementius responded. “We can attack the weak forces later. They’ll be easy to defeat, but we need to destroy the strong forces to ensure that they don’t unite with weaker forces and become even stronger.”

“Fair point,” Galerius conceded. “Can we begin the actual planning now?”

“Sure,” Clementius said. “Okay, so, if we outnumber the Sassanid army, we attack head on. If they outnumber us, we need to resort to trickery. If our numbers are even, resorting to trickery is probably the best plan.”

“Indeed,” Galerius agreed. “Although trickery could still be helpful even if we outnumber them, as it could allow casualties to be lessened. We want as few casualties as possible - any dead troops are troops that we can’t use later.”

Albinus and Clementius left Galerius’s tent, and Galerius went to sleep. He didn’t dream. After that, he continued to march with the army until they reached the border. The scouts reported that the largest Sassanid force was at Nusaybin, and Clementius called another meeting to discuss their strategy.

“Their largest force is in Nusaybin, so that’s where we’re attacking, I take it?” Galerius asked.

“Correct,” Clementius responded. “Now, a river flows through Nusaybin, so we could attempt to take advantage of that. Of course, it runs through the city, so we would have to actually control the city for that to work.”

“Thankfully, we do control it, so that plan might work,” Galerius observed. “The Sassanids are besieging the city, as it is a major border city, so they hope its capture can allow them inroads into the Empire - particularly into Anatolia.”

“How long can it hold out?” Albinus asked. Galerius blinked. Albinus rarely spoke, or at least that was the impression he got from the last meeting. However, the question he had asked was a good point.

Galerius smiled. “It has long been a border fortress,” he said. “It’s the capital of the province of Mesopotamia at the moment, so it is heavily defended. Some call it the ‘Shield of the Empire’. It earned that title from holding on for 13 years against the Sassanids. It’ll hold. We have time.”

“I have a plan,” Clementius said, “We let the Sassanids believe they have won the siege. When they inevitably begin to sack the city, we will already be in it. We attempt to prevent the sacking, or, at least, we make it look like that’s what’s happening. In reality, we corner them. We ensure that the river is to their backs. However, we leave the area to their right open. Many will retreat that way, and they won’t fight as hard, knowing that they’ll have a way out.”

“My legion will be in front of them,” Galerius agreed. “And your legion will join forces with Albinus’s legion to block off their left. We’ll keep control of the city by the battle’s end, and they will have lost thousands of soldiers.”

Everybody agreed to that plan, and Galerius and Albinus left Clementius’s tent. At first, the plan seemed to be going well - they got to and inside Nusaybin without difficulty. Unfortunately, the people defending the city against the siege refused to let the Sassanids in.

Galerius sighed. He didn’t like this, but he knew that it was a possibility. After all, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. He decided to call another commanders’s meeting.

“You know,” Galerius commented. “We seem to be meeting a lot lately. Maybe we should have a command tent specifically for these meetings? Anyways, it seems as if the locals won’t let the Sassanids in. As such, we need another plan. Ideas?”

“A command tent sounds like a good idea,” Clementius said. “Also, since we can’t take advantage of nature, we could just attack them head on. We do outnumber them.”

“The odds are decent,” Galerius replied. “But I’d prefer to not rely on numbers. Could we flank them?”

Clementius considered this. “Flanking them would be difficult. It’s possible, but, if we try to do so, they’ll probably notice us.”

“Right,” Galerius grumbled. “We need to somehow get past their army without them noticing that we’re attempting to surround them. Wait. Oh. Yeah, that could work.”

“What could work?” Clementius snapped.

“Instead of sending one large force to flank them, we gradually move small forces around their lines. We do this late at night, when their scouts are less likely to be awake.”

“Hmm,” Clementius mused. “Yes, that could work.”

The two commanders of Isaurian legions left Galerius’s tent. The three commanders put their plan into action. The forces sent behind the Sassanid forces were mainly from the Isaurian legions. Galerius still wanted to keep an eye on his legion. After all, they had betrayed the Empire once before.

By September, a large army was behind the Sassanids. The three legions attacked at once. The Sassanids were taken by complete surprise, and they were either killed, captured, or they fled.

The three legions briefly celebrated their victory, but everybody knew that this was merely the beginning. The war had only just begun.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, The Battle off Surp Asdvadzadzin

HistoryDude

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Galerius considered possibilities. He didn’t trust his legion that much, but they hadn’t abandoned the Empire at Nusaybin. In addition, he knew that most of his legion - even some members that had abandoned the Empire at Siscia - absolutely hated the Sassanid Empire. As such, he figured he could at least partially trust his legion not to backstab him… in this conflict. That being said, he didn’t trust them in any war that wasn’t against the Sassanids. Nothing united people like a common enemy did, after all.

Of course, Galerius also needed to know where the next battle would be. He’d need to speak with his fellow commanders. He idly wondered if they’d keep in touch even after the war was over but quickly dismissed the thought. There might not be an after a war for him, after all - or for anyone.

He blinked. Where had that thought come from? This war might be changing him in more ways than he realized.

He blinked. Such thoughts would do him no good in the middle of a war. He needed to plan his next moves. To do that, he’d need to meet with Clementius and Albinus. Actually, he could probably just meet with Clementius and have him relay the plan to Albinus, given how little Albinus had actually contributed to the plan last time. However, last time could’ve been an exception for all he knew.

Actually, that meeting tent was starting to sound like a good idea now. He’d mostly been joking about that, but it probably hadn’t been taken as a joke, and it would be very useful. He didn’t appreciate it when other people were in his living space, and his tent had become his living space as of late.

He wrote to the commanders of the twin Isaurian legions suggesting as much and also suggesting that they hold a meeting there. His fellow commanders agreed quickly.

“We need to attack the next largest Sassanid force as soon as we can,” Galerius said, starting the meeting. “We can’t allow them to regroup. We’ve defeated them before, yes, but they’ve always bounced back. They still exist. We need to ensure that they aren’t a threat to the Eastern Roman Empire for at least a generation.”

“You’re saying that we need to utterly annihilate the Sassanid military?” Clementius asked.

Galerius nodded in silent assent. “Their might was destroyed a few years ago when we were ruled by Emperor Longinus. That didn’t stop them from supporting the rebellion against him. We need to crush them - truly crush them. Not crush their forces on the border as Longinus did but crush all of their forces. We want to ensure that they won’t be able to fight us on equal terms for generations to come.”

“I have already sent scouts around much of the border territory,” Albinus began. “My colleague,” - he nodded at Clementius as he said that - “has done this also.”

“What did these scouts discover?” Galerius asked.

“They discovered many Sassanid armies, but the largest of these armies was in Cilicia,” Clementius responded. “The part of Cilicia primarily occupied by Armenians, to be more precise. They were attempting to take Adana.”

“Can Adana hold?” Galerius wondered.

“Perhaps,” Clementius replied unconvincingly. “That also raises the question of whether or not we want it to hold. Entrapping the Sassanids inside the city might lead to a greater victory.”

“True,” Galerius said. “But we can make that decision when we arrive there. We’ve been heading in that direction anyway.”

Everybody agreed with that idea, and the meeting was adjourned.

When the three legions arrived in Adana, it was on the verge of falling. They decided to let it fall. Once it fell, the Sassanids began to rampage throughout the city. Of course, the Eastern Roman commanders weren’t stupid - they knew that this would happen. They had gotten into the city before it fell.

The Legio I Armeniaca formed at the Seyhan River. They had their backs to that river, and Galerius liked that - it meant that they couldn’t retreat. Many Sassanids attempted to attack them, but none of those soldiers succeeded in defeating them.

Galerius smiled. His plan had worked. Many Sassanid soldiers attempted to attack them, which distracted them from pillaging Adana. He had his legion take initiative. They moved to attack the rampaging Sassanid soldiers.

Meanwhile, the two Isaurian legions had formed a defensive line around a cathedral named Surp Asdvadzadzin. All of the Sassanid troops eventually fell back there due to the onslaught of the Legio I Armeniaca. They hoped they wouldn’t be attacked in a holy place. Galerius wondered why they thought that the Romans would obey ideas that the Sassanids hadn’t. After all, they had attempted to pillage almost all of the holy places in the city.

The Armeniaca beared down on them from in front, and many Sassanid troops tried to retreat. They were slaughtered by the Isaurian legions. Very few Sassanid soldiers made it out of Adana both alive and free. Almost none made it out uninjured.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, the Battle of Araden

HistoryDude

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Galerius frowned. The Eastern Romans had won in Adana, and it hadn’t been very difficult, but he had a problem. How had the Sassanids even gotten to Adana in the first place? Adana was in Cilicia, which was west of Armenia. He wondered how far into the Empire other Sassanid forces could’ve gotten. They probably wouldn’t actually be that large a threat, but they still needed to be dealt with.

He decided to take initiative. He sent numerous scouts from his army. They were to primarily check Armenia and Mesopotamia for Sassanid forces, but a few were sent to Pontus or instructed to remain in Cilicia. Galerius didn’t know how far in some Sassanid forces had somehow gotten… and it was likely that they’d target Anatolia first, as the Eastern Romans valued it more than Syria. In addition, they would need to go through Syria to get to Palestine or Egypt.
Clementius was the one to call a meeting in the meeting tent this time. Galerius had expected that.

“I’m assuming that we’re planning for the next battle now?” Galerius asked.

“Yes,” Clementius answered. “Also, can we just assume that these meetings are going to happen a few days after a battle is over, at least until the Sassanid Empire surrenders this time?”

“We can,” Albinus replied. “It seems like we’re doing that anyway, and officializing it will save both ink and papyrus.”

“Ok,” Galerius said. “Anyways, I’ve sent numerous scouts around the border between us and the Sassanids. I sent scouts to both Armenia and Mesopotamia, but I also sent scouts to Pontus and told some to search here. After all, the Sassanids somehow managed to get here, so what says that they never managed to get further west? Also, how did the Sassanids get here, anyway? Wouldn’t that require them to cross all of Armenia without us noticing?”

“We did notice,” Clementius said, rolling his eyes. “We just decided that the army at Nusaybin was a greater threat. We reasoned that we can always destroy the smaller army later, which we did. Anyway, where is the next largest Sassanid force?”

“It’s east of here, in Mesopotamia,” Galerius responded. “It’s currently heading towards Araden.”

“It’s east of here? How long would it take to march there?” Clementius asked. “Is it in the portion of Mesopotamia closest to us, or is it closer to the Zagros Mountains? Would we have to cross Sassanid territory to fight this army?”

“It would take about a month to march there,” Galerius replied. “We shouldn’t have to cross Sassanid territory - or at least territory that was under Sassanid control before this war started. Of course, Araden could’ve fallen by the time we arrive.”

“Is it likely that it will have fallen when we arrive?” Albinus wondered.

“It’s doubtful that it will have fallen,” Galerius answered. “The Sassanid army that we’re talking about hasn’t even reached Araden yet. And it will only take us a month to get there - as I mentioned before. Possibly even less time if we hurry. Almost any city can hold out for a month.”

“So,” Clementius began. “We plan as if Araden has held. Is there anything we can take advantage of in Araden’s vicinity?” He directed that last part at Galerius.

Galerius frowned. “My scouts say that it is located in a valley, but I don’t think that can help us that much.”

Albinus bit his lip. “Actually,” he began. “As long as the city holds, we can take advantage of that fact.”

“Wait, we can? How?” Clementius asked, turning to look at his fellow commander.

“The Sassanid troops will need to be in the valley in order to besiege the city,” Albinus began. “This means that we can take a position above them. We can put our archers in the front and have them shoot arrows from above.”

“That’s a good idea,” Galerius commented. “All in favor?”

Clementius quickly agreed, so everyone was in support of the plan. Thankfully, the plan went perfectly. Many Sassanids tried to retreat, but few succeeded, due to the fact that escaping would basically require the amount of physical exercise equivalent to climbing a mountain. Needless to say, very few Sassanids escaped alive.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, The Battle of Haykaberd

HistoryDude

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Galerius smiled. Multiple Sassanid forces had been destroyed. The plan for dealing with the great numbers of the Sassanids was working. Of course, it hadn’t only been that plan, and it did require quite a lot of scouting, but that was fine.

Anyway, he had a meeting about what his legion and the two legions they were working with were going to do next… soon. He wasn’t actually sure exactly when, as “sometime after the battle” wasn’t that specific. He figured he had some time, as the others and he generally didn’t make plans with incomplete information. Doing that would have been next to suicide, especially in the battles where they were in either Sassanid or ex-Sassanid territory. Basically, any territory which the Sassanids had ruled over in recent years needed to be treated with caution.

He’d sent scouts around Mesopotamia and Armenia alone this time. He had no wish to march across lots of territory. If a large force had somehow managed to get past Armenia, then they could be dealt with later. However, it was extremely unlikely that anybody would now, as he’d heard that the Legio IV Scythia was being ferried to Armenia from the recently conquered Cherson. He didn’t think that that was a great idea because he didn’t think Cherson was fully subdued, but the Imperial Throne probably thought that the Sassanids were a much more pressing threat at the moment.

He decided that the meeting would probably start soon, if it hadn’t already, so he should probably go to the new meeting tent. He had information for the meeting now at least.

He walked into the tent, and the first words he heard were, “finally, we’ve been waiting forever,” from Clementius. He didn’t think that it would be productive to reply to that.

“Did either of you send out scouts?” he asked as he took a seat.

“Yes,” Clementius answered as Albinus nodded. “But did you not?”

“No, I did,” Galerius responded. “My scouts found that the next largest Sassanid force, at least in Armenia and Mesopotamia, was at Haykaberd.”

“So did ours,” Clementius replied. “Haykaberd is located in a valley, so how can we use that information?”

“Okay,” Galerius began. “It’s located on a ridge that overlooks a plain… Oh. That could work…”

“What could work?” Albinus asked, sounding somewhat annoyed.

Galerius smiled. “We could attempt to trick the Sassanids into running into the valley, causing them to fall to their deaths,” he said. The other two commanders rolled their eyes. “However, that isn’t a great plan. I do have another one, thankfully.”

Clementius sighed. “Okay, what’s that plan?”

“We corner them,” Galerius said frankly. “We defend the walls of the city, trapping them between us and, well, the ridge. They would be forced to either fight or fall to their deaths. Yes, they could technically retreat by running sideways, but those that tried that will be viewed as cowards. In addition, if anybody who isn’t at the edge of their army attempts that, they would send the entire army into disarray…”

“That is a good plan,” Clementius said. “That will be what we do, assuming there are no complications… and there are almost always complications.” And, on that semi-depressing note, the meeting ended.

The three legions arrived at Haykaberd in early winter. Thankfully, the weather didn’t affect their plans. The besieging army that was near the valley was completely crushed, but the Sassanids had divided their army into two in order to get the city to surrender more quickly.

The leaders of the three legions thus had to decide what to do about the army on the city’s other end. They decided to simply attack them head on… but from behind. That army was mostly destroyed, but a few soldiers from it escaped. Despite that, the Armenian city was saved, and the Eastern Romans were victorious.

The three commanders received orders that instructed them not to wait out the winter. The Imperial Throne figured that the war was on the verge of being won, and pressing their advantage was the best move.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, The Battle of Gardman

HistoryDude

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Galerius wasn’t that happy about the orders, but orders were orders. He was a loyal Roman citizen, so he would obey orders, especially direct orders from his Emperor. Also, he did realize that pressing the advantage that they’d gained over the Sassanids was probably a good idea, although he really didn’t like cold areas that much. Honestly, he wished that the Sassanid armies gathered in areas where it wasn’t that cold, but he doubted that they would. After all, they had to know that it’s easier to defend a city when the weather is against your enemies.

Galerius sighed. Mentally hoping for things wasn’t a productive use of his time. What was done was done, and it could never be undone, at least not by the hands of men. He figured that the other two commanders would send scouts across Mesopotamia and Armenia, so he sent his scouts to Arabia both to ensure that the Sassanid forces weren’t gathering for a surprise attack and to ensure that the Ghassanids were still unsubjugated by the Persians.

What he found surprised him. He was definitely going to need to tell his fellow commanders about this at their meeting. He frowned. He’d been delaying going to the meeting tent long enough, even if that wasn’t deliberate. He was probably expected a few days ago.

Thankfully, it seemed as if the others had taken the time to contemplate their new orders as well. As such, Galerius wasn’t viewed as late, but rather as on time.

“Just to get this one thing clear,” Albinus began. “All of us are continuing with this campaign through the winter, as we have been ordered to, correct?”

Both Galerius and Clementius nodded in response to that. “Okay,” Albinus said. “You two can do the planning now, then. I might throw out some thoughts on occasion, as well.”

“Very well,” Galerius said. “Clementius, I’m assuming that you sent your scouts across Mesopotamia and Armenia? If you didn’t, we might have a problem. A large problem.”

Clementius blinked. “I did,” he replied. “I’m pretty sure Albinus did, as well, so, even if I hadn’t, it shouldn’t have been that large a problem. Why? If you didn’t send your scouts across Armenia and Mesopotamia, where did you send them? Or did you give them a break?”

“I didn’t give them a break,” Galerius said. “I sent my scouts to Arabia. This was to ensure that the Sassanids weren’t secretly launching an attack on the Levant, for one thing. What they discovered was… interesting, to say the least.”

“Oh?” Clementius asked, raising an eyebrow. “What did they discover, then?”
Galerius winced. “There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the Sassanids aren’t attempting a sneak attack through the Levant… at least they aren’t right now. The bad news is that they have managed to vassalize almost the entirety of northern Arabia. This might be the source of their great military might, despite the fact that we recently defeated them. Thankfully, the Ghassanids still hold out against them, so we won’t have to fight multiple wars on two fronts.”

“That is indeed worrying news,” Clementius said. “We should do something about it, but we shouldn’t yet. Alerting Emperor Justinian might be a good idea.”

“I was already planning on doing that,” Galerius said. “Moving on, where’s the largest Sassanid army currently present in Armenia or Mesopotamia?”

“It’s in Gardman in Armenia,” Clementius answered.

“Gardman’s a rather general area,” Galerius said. “It’s not a city, it’s a region. Can you be more specific?”

“Nope,” Clementius answered. “I would if I could. This army is spread out across much of the region.”

“That means that it’s spread thin,” Galerius realized. Then, he smiled. “Okay, I can work with that. I have a plan.” He shared the plan in the meeting, and the two commanders of Isaurian legions agreed with it.

The three legions marched to Gardman. They entered the region unopposed, and, then, they put their plan into action. The Eastern Romans attacked the scattered Sassanid armies. These small armies were quickly destroyed, and few of their members survived. However, news of these attacks reached the other small Sassanid armies.

These Sassanid armies worried, and they decided to attempt to unite near the center of the region. Thousands of Sassanid troops managed to unite, but the Eastern Romans did manage to kill or capture some men attempting to reach the new rendezvous point.

Galerius sent his scouts across the region. He instructed them to look for large Sassanid armies. He hoped to determine where all of the Sassanids were going. Naturally, he assumed that they were uniting for a last stand.

The scouts reported where the Sassanids had gone, and Galerius shared this information with both Clementius and Albinus. The three legions moved to the location of the Sassanid army. Then, they simply attacked them head on. Thousands of men fought for their lives that day, but the three legions ultimately emerged victorious.

Galerius noticed that some Sassanid troops were managing to escape, but he figured that they weren’t numerous enough to cause any lasting damage to the Eastern Roman Empire. Galerius walked among the battlefield, and he looked around. He lamented the loss of so many lives, but what else could he have done? The Sassanids threatened Roman hegemony - they needed to be destroyed.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, the Battle of Saokoros

HistoryDude

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Galerius smiled. Victory was almost at hand. The Sassanids wouldn’t be granted mercy… if they were, then they would be able to threaten the Eastern Roman Empire once more. History was clear on that front. No, the Sassanid armies needed to be comprehensively destroyed. Even if they were, the Sassanids might eventually recover, but this would hopefully ensure that they weren’t a threat for at least another generation.

Galerius sent out his scouts. They were to search Armenia and Mesopotamia for Sassanid armies. This wasn’t a surprising order. They’d been doing that for most of the year. Consistency was a good thing most of the time, though, so they weren’t complaining. They found a few armies. Upon hearing this news, Galerius knew that the war was far from over. But it was inching ever closer to ending, and that was what mattered.

Galerius then realized that it had been a few days. That was the new unofficial meeting time, although it was only unofficial because no one needed to make it official. They’d all arrive at the meeting tent around this time anyway, so making it official would require a bunch of paperwork and change absolutely nothing, which would be a waste of time.

Galerius surveyed the tent. Clementius was here, but Albinus wasn’t. Hmm, that was very unusual. It probably meant that he was earlier than usual. Albinus arrived a few minutes later. Yep, he had been earlier than usual.

“I sent out scouts,” Galerius said to begin the meeting. “They found a decently sized Sassanid army in the mountains.”

“Where in the mountains?” Clementius wondered. “I sent scouts out as well, but they encountered no army like the one that you speak of. I’m assuming your scouts simply covered a wider amount of land than mine did.”

Galerius frowned. “That’s likely true,” he began. “But, if so, what was the biggest army that your scouts discovered?”

Clementius sighed. “The largest army that my scouts found was marching towards Hasakah. There was also an army north of that. It seemed as if it was marching to unite with the army in Hasakah. They won’t unite for a few months, though, so we can cross that road when we get to it.”

Galerius frowned. He didn’t like delaying a problem, but they did have an army to deal with, and they would be in the mountains anyway, so dealing with the two Sassanid armies shouldn’t be that hard. Still, he didn’t like the situation.

“Fine, we can deal with that later,” Galerius said, grudgingly. “Anyway, Saokoros is a mountain city. We should be able to take advantage of that somehow. Oh, right.” He told his fellow commanders his plan, and they agreed.

The three Roman legions marched to the mountains. The Sassanids didn’t see their advance, and the Eastern Romans took advantage of that fact. Galerius had decided that attacking immediately was a bad idea. He knew that climbing mountains would greatly tire out his army, which would likely make any battle fought afterward more difficult to win.

The Roman archers fired upward. They didn’t kill many Sassanids, but they did succeed at pissing off the Sassanids. At first, the Sassanid commander succeeded at keeping his men in line, and the battle remained a stalemate. However, as more Sassanids fell to Roman arrows, fewer Sassanids were content to simply let the Romans attack them with impunity.

Finally, many Sassanids charged down the mountain and attacked the Eastern Roman legions. They were slaughtered, but many Sassanids didn’t fall for the Eastern Roman bait and they remained in the mountains. More Roman arrows killed Sassanid soldiers, but the Sassanids remained disciplined. Well, this was unusual. Normally, the Sassanid armies weren’t very loyal to their commanders.

Galerius knew that his plan wasn’t working. He wondered if a straight up frontal attack would work. Sure, such an attack would result in massive casualties, but the battle would be over. However, he quickly dismissed that thought. The casualties might be too great in the long run, and such a move wouldn’t help the Legio I Armeniaca’s loyalty to him - or the Eastern Roman Empire in general.

As such, neither side did anything. For weeks, Roman archers shot at the Sassanid formation, occasionally hitting them. For weeks, the Sassanids remained put. For weeks, a stalemate held.

Galerius frowned. The opposing army had almost held out for a month now. However, Galerius couldn’t see any particular reason why. Why would the Sassanids want to delay the three legions? Oh. Of course. They were trying to allow another Sassanid army to reach Hasakah, and, from there, to unite with the Sassanid army north of Hasakah. They were buying time for a last stand.

And, if that last stand happened, then the war could end in stalemate. He needed to end this battle before January In the Year of our Lord 501, or all might be lost.
Therefore, under the cover of darkness, Galerius led the Legio I Armeniaca up the mountain to Saokoros. And, with night shielding them, the commander of the Sassanid army led his best troops in a well organized retreat out of the mountains.

As the sun rose, the soldiers left behind were attacked by the Armeniaca. They were slaughtered. Another Sassanid army had been dealt with, but the war was far from over.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, the Battle of Hasakah, Part 1

HistoryDude

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Galerius frowned. There was a large Sassanid army at Hasakah, but there was also another, albeit small, Sassanid army north of there, in Armenia. Galerius knew that those two armies couldn’t be allowed to unite. If they were, the three legions could be decimated - or worse. The battle could even be lost. Galerius knew that those two Sassanid armies could not be allowed to merge under any circumstances whatsoever.

Galerius decided to go to the meeting tent almost immediately after Saokoros ended. That battle had massively delayed the three legions. Thankfully, this situation seemed to concern the other two commanders, as well, so he wasn’t just being paranoid.

“Nice of you to join us,” Clementius commented. “So, we have a problem. Two Sassanid armies are going to merge soon in Hasakah, and that could result in a disaster. We just lost most of the time we could have used to eliminate one of them. As such, what do we do?”

“Wait, aren’t the Scythia and that private army moving through Armenia?” Albinus asked.

“Yes,” Galerius said, “But they might not arrive in time to intercept the 10,000 men strong army in Armenia. Even if they did manage to intercept them, those armies only have 6000 men… so they’d be outnumbered. They could probably buy us time, but we have no guarantee that the time bought would be enough. For that matter, we have no guarantee that they’re trying to intercept the Sassanid army in Armenia. Their strategy might not be so ambitious - or it could be infinitely more ambitious. The essential problem with relying on them is that we don’t know their plans - and we can’t contact them before the battle in Hasakah starts.”

“All of that is true,” Clementius acknowledged. “But there may still be hope. Slim hope, yes, but still hope. If worst comes to worst, we can simply face them head on and hope that the battle doesn’t cripple us completely.”

Galerius started pacing around the command tent. “But we don’t want to leave that up to chance. We want to limit casualties - well, casualties on our side - as much as we can. Is there anything else we can try to keep such a hard battle from occurring?”

“Yes,” Clementius said. “Divide and conquer is the strategy that we’ve been using, and, so far, it’s been working brilliantly. The Scythia might attempt to reinforce us, but, as we’ve previously decided, we can’t rely on any forces except our own. However, we can attempt to begin the battle at Hasakah before the Sassanid army is reinforced.”

Galerius sat down. He seemed to have been slightly reassured by Clementius’s words, although we still looked worried. “Most of our soldiers are new recruits,” he muttered. “They hadn’t seen combat at all before this war began, and they’ve only fought in battles where they held a rather heavy advantage. Granted, that is our strategy for this war, but I’m worried that if they realize that they’re almost evenly matched…”

Clementius heard Galerius’s musings. “I’m pretty sure that our soldiers won’t retreat just because they’re evenly matched, my friend,” he said dryly. “They were, after all, chosen to serve in the Roman legions - which are our elite forces…”

Galerius sighed. “I know,” he said. “I’m just paranoid from…” he trailed off, but both Clementius and Albinus got the message. I’m just paranoid from Siscia. And, in all honesty, they couldn’t blame him.

“We should start actually planning what we’re going to do at Hasakah,” Clementius said. “Taking advantage of the terrain will increase our chances of winning by a large factor.”

“Yes,” Galerius agreed, grateful for the subject change. “It will. Considering that your scouts have been to Hasakah, I assume that they know some things about the terrain, and they shared this information with you.”

“Indeed,” Clementius said. “The city gets its water from a river inside of it. Actually, two rivers unite in the city. In addition, we have control of it at the moment, although that might change before we arrive. As a precaution, we should have two plans, one for if we control the city and another for if we don’t.”

“Agreed,” Galerius said.

The meeting lasted for a little while longer, as they tried to come up with plans. Although many plans were ultimately rejected, they did eventually come with two plans. Once that was done, the three legions began to march as quickly as they could to Hasakah.

The good news was that the garrison at Hasakah managed to hold out until the three legions arrived. The bad news was that the Scythia - and Anastasios’s army had decided to engage the Sassanid force at Ani… before it could reach Hasakah. The problem with that was that it meant that the Eastern Roman Empire was extremely likely to lose a legion.

Unfortunately, Galerius couldn’t worry about such things, because he had to focus on his own battle.

Galerius led the Legio I Armeniaca into Hasakah itself. The city itself looked mostly deserted - which probably meant that most of its residents had left to go to places that weren’t in an active warzone. Smart of them.

The two Isaurian legions hit the besieging army from behind. Despite this, the forces defending Hasakah finally broke. The Sassanid army began to enter the city. As such, they initially didn’t notice that they were being attacked from behind. Most of the front half of the Sassanid army entered Hasakah in triumph, but the back half ended up turning around and fighting for their lives.

The Legio I Armeniaca was positioned near the Khabur River. The Sassanids began to sack the city, but, before they could truly begin the sack in earnest, they noticed the Armeniaca. Realizing that the aforementioned army wouldn’t allow them to sack the city for a prolonged period of time, the Sassanid commander decided to outright attack Galerius’s legion. Inwardly, Galerius laughed at how stupid a decision that was.

Then, shocked, Galerius realized that only half of the Sassanid army was attacking his legion. Okay, so there apparently were impulsive people in charge of Sassanid forces. Good to know.
 
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HistoryDude

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Galerius filed away that information for later, however. The Sassanids knew that they could quickly escape, so they didn’t fight with all their effort. If they failed, they could always retreat. Galerius inwardly laughed about that. It was true that, at the moment, their escape route would be easy, but that wouldn’t stay the case.

Galerius dodged a Sassanid arrow as he fought. He had decided to fight on the front lines to inspire his men. Normally, he would be closer to the center of his legion, but his legion could use all the inspiration they could get in this battle. After all, the Sassanid army that they were facing here was enormous - not quite as large as the three legions combined but still large. He needed all the advantages he could get - if he had to lead from the front, then so be it. There were worse ways to die.

Of course, he wasn’t planning on dying, but he might. If he did, he would face his death with dignity. And he did miss the old days when he wasn’t in charge of an entire legion. He missed the feeling of fighting for his life, and he, therefore, was actually enjoying this. That being said, he was in charge of making sure the plan went decently well, so he had to keep an eye on the other two legions.

Thankfully, they seemed to be doing well. Most of the Sassanid army at Hasakah’s walls seemed to be in a desperate struggle for their lives. The two Isaurian legions were doing their job well. Everything was going according to plan. Galerius could only hope that things continued to go so well.

Meanwhile, he dodged arrows and defeated Sassanid soldiers who challenged him. He did whatever he had to do to stay alive. His battle had only just begun, even if the battle at Hasakah’s walls was on the verge of ending.

The fighting continued until nightfall. The night was dark, and it was a new moon. The stars were out, but they didn’t provide much light. Neither side wanted to fight when they could barely see, so they both retreated to their tents.

As Galerius awoke, he looked over at Hasakah’s walls. The Byzantine army looked as if they were busy during the night. Thousands of corpses lined the walls, and one could see some of them from miles away. Galerius decided that he wouldn’t look at the gruesome scene any longer. He was used to the sight of corpses, of course, but the walls of Hasakah looked horrifying. The good news was that the plan was still going well. The amount of deaths was still a shame, though.

The Sassanid army that had initially shied away from attacking the Legio I Armeniaca had managed to escape the city entirely. Or they’d joined the other two Sassanid forces. Whatever had happened, Galerius saw no sign of them.

By noon, the battle at the Khabur River resumed in earnest, and Galerius had to focus all of his attention on simply staying alive. The battle was far from over, but it was ending, and that was enough.
 
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Part 1: The War In The Shadows, Chapter 3: Be All My Sins Remember'd, the Battle of Hasakah, Part 3

HistoryDude

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Galerius attacked. For most of the battle, he had been on the defensive, as he was keeping an eye on the battle at Hasakah’s walls. Now, the walls were taken, and that battle was won. Relief was coming, although Galerius didn’t believe that the Legio I Armeniaca needed to be relieved, but the extra men would be able to prevent casualties, so he didn’t attempt to change the plan.

In truth, Galerius hadn’t expected either of the conflicts in Hasakah to go nearly so well. He expected the Sassanid army at the walls to fight with all of their efforts and to tie up the two Isaurian legions for weeks or even months. Also, he expected that his own legion might not fight with all their strength. Thankfully, their hate for the Sassanids seemed to outweigh any possible treasonous thoughts.

Galerius’s attacks killed many Sassanids. Soon, he realized that he was within the Sassanid center. If he pushed on, he could break the enemy center entirely. However, the battle’s result was already decided, so breaking the Sassanid center wasn’t necessary. In addition, if he did do that, then the battle could devolve into a fight where anarchy reigned. There was no guarantee that he’d survive such a move, and his death would break any organization within the Armeniaca at all. That was the only reason why he wasn’t destroying his enemy’s center. Really. It wasn’t like he feared death or anything. A soldier fearing death was an absurd idea.

Galerius pulled back. The Sassanid commander breathed a sigh of relief. His army would survive for a little while longer, even if it was only a hair’s breadth away from destruction.

Galerius saw the Sassanid commander’s expression and smirked. His relief would be very short-lived. The battle’s end was going to be soon, very soon indeed.

As the sun set, Clementius and the first Isaurian legion arrived at the back of the Sassanid army. Night fell before the Sassanids realized that they were surrounded on both sides. Once they realized that, they attempted to retreat, but Albinus, with the second Isaurian legion, had covered the Sassanid army’s flanks.

The Sassanids knew that they were doomed, but they fought anyway. Galerius wondered if their plan was to carve themselves into Eastern Rome’s collective memory by the Roman corpses that they’d leave behind.

To the Sassanid commander’s credit, he did attempt to stop the bloodshed. He challenged Galerius to one on one duel, but he was quickly defeated. The Sassanids were left without a leader, and they attempted to escape by whatever means they could. Few succeeded.

Hasakah was safe, although it was still deserted. Repairs might cost a fortune, but it was still firmly under Eastern Roman control. The three legions had succeeded in their goal, even if there was… collateral damage.

Galerius looked at the city he was in. “Okay,” he admitted to himself. “Collateral damage is a massive understatement.” And that was, indeed, true. Most of the houses were ransacked, and many valuables had been stolen. Those valuables now littered the area around the Khabur River - those that had stolen them dead. The Khabur River itself looked a darkish orange. The blood would wash out, of course, but it was still a sickening sight.

Galerius sighed. Sometimes, sacrifices had to be made in war. Speaking of which, he wondered how the battle at Ani was doing. He had basically sacrificed a legion by attacking the Sassanid army at Hasakah and not reinforcing his fellow legion. As he thought that, a messenger handed him a letter. It said two words: “The Scythia held.” Well, that was bound to be quite the story.
 
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