By the 5th century, the Western Roman Empire relied increasingly on mercenaries and Foederati, barbarians paid by Rome to protect her borders. As Rome was to discover, loyalty easily bought is easily lost.
Fine shine you got on that chainmail son, that’s some real quality. How old is it? A month or two? I daresay it’ll see a few dents in it before some Godless Hun sticks you.
I’m out of the soldiering game now. Last battle I saw was that filthy great mess at Carthaginensis. Fought on the Roman side, though it wasn’t what you’d call a stand-up fight, and I’m not what you’d call a proper Roman anyhow. I hired out for years, and not always on the winning side, but I never saw anything like that. When the Visigoth ships rounded the coast into view of the Roman fleet, I reckon old Majorian shat his britches. The rest of us were weren’t too happy to see them either.
Majorian wasn’t bad for a noble. Had the notion he could get West Rome fixed up again, and fair’s fair, he had a good crack at it. But we all knew the rot set in years ago. Bishops pissing away all the coin, problems on the borders, and with all the trouble it seemed like soldiering was a good trade to be in. I’ve a bit of training and a strong arm, and I’ve sent my share to the hereafter. My old man gave me his gear when his time came, and I always kept it sharp and oiled the way he taught me. Sling us some coppers and I’ll show you how it’s done proper, I can see you’re good for it boy.
I made a fair soldier and I might’ve stuck it out a bit longer, even when the pay started drying up. But when the Vandals came at us, I knew the dice were turning and it was time to pack up. Stick me on a ship and I’ll fight as good as any man on land, but Carthaginensis wasn’t a stand-up fight. It was a massacre.
We formed up on the foredeck as their ships rowed in hard, but the bastards didn’t even try to board. They just drew up close, pointed a set of bronze pipes at us, and they sprayed the deck with fire. It was like liquid, it wasn’t natural, sticking to everything and burning men where they stood. How you supposed to fight liquid fire? With a sword and shield? That pretty armour wouldn’t have saved you son.
If there is a hell, I reckon it looks like Carthaginensis. Men were screaming as they got cooked alive and the air ran thick with fatty smoke. It smelled like pork on the spit-roast – It made you hungry and sick at the same time. Pure evil. Coils of rope were smacking the deck as the sails came down, and in all the chaos, not a target in sight to stick your sword in.
Those of us who could swim dropped our gear, took a dive off the side and made for the docks. Best move I ever made.
Nope, that’s it for me and soldiering. It’s gone evil and rotten, just like the rest of the world, and I’d sooner take my chances on the road. So good luck to you, son.
You look a bit green there. Mind if I finish your ale?