With consecutive defeats incurred against Mamucium City and Juventus, winter has already proven harsh, and it continues to test the troops as the year draws to a close.
On the domestic front, a narrow loss at home to AC Mediolanum is followed by a disconcerting collapse at Chievo Verona, where the army is routed after conceding three times in the space of five minutes. There is some respite to be found beyond Italian borders; the resistance of the Bohemians, often tricky and formidable foes,1The Marcomanni tribe were occasionally under Roman rule, but often fought against it. is broken by Manolas, Nzonzi and Perottus, while the Greeks – reduced to little more than a vassal state2The Greeks were very much under the thumb after Sulla’s exploits prior to Caesar’s rule – and they remain under the thumb after another sack of Athens in 2018 AD. – put up far less resistance in Rome, gifting three points and European progression to the grateful hosts.
Moving into Decembrius, poor form on home shores is temporarily arrested. A brace from Pellegrinius sees off the threat of the Udene army3Udinese. – a force Caesar himself once helped to build4Caesar transformed the nearby Cividale del Friuli from a fortified barracks to a forum (named after himself, of course) and then a fully fledged town within a relatively short space of time. Caesar wintered in the area with his legions on a number of occasions, too. – and a Stefano Okakus header helped put down a local rebellion in Frosinone.
Division and discontent in the city remains, and a more significant display of insurrection is forthcoming as Simone Inzaghi’s pale blue army marches on the Olimpico. Here, an organised display is undone by two of Rome’s young charges. Cengiz Under receives a different kind of marching order after 64 minutes, before Patrick Schick spurns the most glorious of opportunities from two paces out, and the chance to seize the battlefield is forever lost.
One stalemate follows another in Firenze5Fiorentina., before showing a little too much respect to visitors from Naples, gifting their southern friends two goals, failing to build on their numerical advantage and even forgoing the opportunity to penalise Gil Azzurri from the spot, just over two paces from the last line of defence.6In short, Perottus misses a penalty kick.
As a result of this hospitality, Rome falls an unassailable 14 points behind Juventus, while the potential for another attempt at a major European conquest dwindles significantly. Wintering in camp for much of January, Caesar contemplates a change in strategy and personnel.
Between Sextilis7August (obviously Augustus wasn’t born / Emperor yet). and Decembrius, his Bohemian strikeforce has mustered a miserly ten goals between them; were it not for the contributions of Okakus, no aquiliferi would have hit the desired target during the period. The attack has lost its potency, and the lack of dread and fear serves to embolden the enemy to press higher up the field and claim a share of the spoils.
Out with the old
In camp, some of the men have become restless. Fazio was once a commanding decanus at Hispal,8He was a decent centre-half at Sevilla. but his best days are behind him. One of the older legionaries in the ranks, his lack of pace and fitness outweighs the experience gleaned on successful Copa del Rey and Europa League conquests.9Pace 10, acceleration 10, natural fitness 9. Juan Jesus has three years on his defensive partner, but does not possess the composure or concentration required to meet the lofty standards of the Roman army.10Concentration 8, composure 8. At the age of 27, that’s not going to improve. His discontent could spread amongst the men and threaten Caesar’s deification, which cannot happen again.11According to the New Testament, the Judean leaders successfully argued to prefect Pontius Pilate that Jesus’ claim to be king of the Jewish people was a challenge to Roman rule and the deification of Caesar.
Fazio previously besmirched his reputation with an ill-fated spell with Londinensi Album,12Tottenham Hotspur. but this time finds himself stationed further north under the command of Jurgen Klopp at Seteia Aestuarium13Liverpool. in exchange for 300,000 denarii14The (very loose) equivalent of around £22m. Sources differ on how much a denarius was worth, so we’re going with £80 and scaling it up. (with a further 6,250 denarii in appearance-related add-ons). Caesar shows a similar degree of leniency with Jesus; though not against the concept of crucifixion,15In his youth, Caesar once crucified pirates who had previously taken him hostage. True story. he instead opts to send him to Germania Superior, where he can see out his career in the relative wilderness of the lower-middle Bundesliga.
The second rank of central decani were not the only men spreading rumours of unrest. Karsdorp, a flanking decanus hailing originally from Germania Inferior, is frustrated by his lack of prominence, believing himself to be of a higher status than Alessandro Florenzius – a man born of Rome itself – and Davide Santonus, a versatile warrior raised just three days’ march from the capital.
Unwilling to accept his role as auxiliary cover,16In most circumstances, non-Roman troops were used in this way, particularly those from Germanic tribes. Karsdorp demands a promotion. Caesar is reluctant to grant such a proposal, for Karsdorp has performed without great merit or distinction in his fourteen fights.17Eleven starts and three substitute appearances at an average rating of 6.84. The 23-year-old’s services are highly coveted; he departs with little fanfare for the increasingly powerful Germanic tribe Bayern Raetia,18The approximate area where Munich stands today. where he will go on to make just one anonymous outing for the main army, before campaigning for four months with the reserves. 200,000 denarii well spent.19£16m.
In with the young
Caesar uses some of this new war chest to recruit a new warrior to lead the line. With Dzeko and Schick failing to inflict defeats on a consistent basis, the commander-in-chief sends his scouts to Hispania, where a young soldier by the name of Mina is fighting out of Valentia. Despite striking 15 times the previous year, the aquiliferi is available for significantly less than his worth. A good finisher and hard worker, Mina is duly drafted into the legion for just 35,000 denarii.20£2.7m: an absolute steal. Should he train hard and deliver when it matters on the battlefield, the 23-year-old could earn Caesar’s favour, and with it a promotion to regular first-choice duties.
The second new recruit hails from Graecia by way of Germania, and is the antithesis of the departing Fazio and Jesus. By the age of eighteen, Retsos had already tasted victory in a domestic campaign,21Retsos won the Superliga with Olimpiakos in 2016/17. before seeking even greater glory in Germania. Though far from infallible, the Graecian warrior has shown flashes of technical ability and a cool head in the heat of battle. Placing the 20-year-old alongside compatriot Manolas at the heart of the backline should at once aid his development and in time strengthen Rome’s defences.
Despite the short-term challenges, Caesar also has one eye on Rome’s long-term future beyond the current campaign. He moves quickly and pre-emptively to secure the signature of Divock Origi, a Belgae forward with pace, technique and a strong work ethic, qualities coveted by the commander-in-chief. His signing is not without controversy. The 24-year-old aquiliferi‘s commission belonged to Seteia Aestuarium, but he will spend the final year of that contract with the rebellious Lazio party, usually deployed without much success as part of the late cavalry charge.22He makes a lot of substitute appearances, which perhaps explains why his goals and average rating – 2 and 6.74 respectively – are so low. His role will be magnified once he moves to the capital.
Cover is also required for the occasionally exposed left flank.23To reiterate, the left flank is the weakest, as it is the side on which soldiers have to bear the weight of their shields. One of the more experienced soldiers in the squad, Kolarov has been one of the few men to serve Rome with honour thus far, but his ability to make forays down the wing will inevitably be diminished by the ravaging effects of time. Caesar once again pillages Seteia for new men, this time securing the services of Hispanic chariot-rider Alberto Moreno. Not for the first time, the stubborn Britons refuse to send their man as a hostage,24Caesar claims that when he left Britain, he negotiated with the tribal chiefs and secured hostages, but it is considered unlikely that the Britons would have followed through with these demands. but the buccaneering wing-back will join the men in Quintilis.25July.
The two new men will be rewarded handsomely for their service, earning 1000 and 1125 denarii respectively.26£80,000 and £90,000 per week. Without an injection of funds from the senate, it will be victorious plunder that pays the new arrivals and the existing troops.27Victory in battles and conquest was one of the more traditional ways of raising funds and paying armies. Positioning for another European Conquest becomes paramount – but there are other methods to levy the necessary funds.
Daniele De Rossus has been with the legion since his teenage years. He too is a man of Rome, just like his father before him. He fought his way through the ranks to become one of our best and brightest warriors; a tireless worker, a team player and fearless tackler, wholly unafraid of the referee’s book. He was the difference in 2007’s Battle of Coppa Italia, and instrumental once more when the legion successfully defended their ground the following year.28They also won the Coppa in 2008. For nineteen years, he has served one republic through good times and bad with unflinching loyalty and unquestionable dedication.
But his dwindling acceleration and pace have brought him almost to a standstill.29Both are no higher than 6; perhaps not as important for a deeper-lying decanus, but painfully slow nonetheless. In six months, it will be time to stand him down from active duty. Daniele will receive a glorious triumph in his honour, and the people of Rome will be afforded the opportunity to say goodbye to their primus pilius before he retires to a sleepy Germanic town;30This is what many retired centurions opted to do. We say many; given that they were on 25-year contracts, and fought alongside the legionaries they commanded, the streets probably weren’t filled with battle-hardened veterans. or sails out to seek riches in the service of foreign kings with enough gold to pay for such an accomplished, albeit faded, veteran; or puts his expertise to use in the forums, waxing lyrical about the legion’s latest victories in the column inches of Caesar’s own Acta Diurna.31Caesar’s own gazzette of sorts, combining news, decrees and edicts from the Senate with notices of births, marriages and deaths. De Rossus could become Rome’s own Henry Winter (we imagine the Acta to be too classy for a Neil Custis comparison).
A hastiliarius position may even become available. Should he stay on with the men as an instructor rather than a soldier, he would command a mere fraction of his 62500 denarii annual salary.32De Rossus currently gets paid a whopping £96,000 per week.
Mina arrives seven days before the ides of Januarius and is thrust straight into the action. He leads the line without great conviction in the Italian Cup, El Shaarawian sparing his blushes with a winner over Bononia. Mina is joined by Retsos the following week; while the Hispaniard toils at one end, the Graecian defender looks assured at the other as Rome is repelled by the defences of Inter Mediolanum and Sampdoria.
Though Caesar is satisfied that his backline has been strengthened, concerns remain further up the field. On Pridie Februarius,33The 31st of January. the legion will square off once more against AC Mediolanum, with a place in the Italian Cup final four at stake. Suso, an Hispaniard on the opposing side of the battlefield, gives AC the early advantage, but Rome’s own Iberian attacker hits back with his first strike for the club, capitalising on a rare error by Donnarumma to restore parity.
The engagement is defined not by the two new soldiers, both of whom were quietly impressive, but by the respective forces’ fortunes from twelve yards. Antonio Mirantius proved the saviour of Rome when he leapt to keep out Ricardo Rodriguez’s penalty late in the day, before Cristantius converted an identical opportunity of his own in extra time.
The sun rises on the Kalends of Februarius,34The 1st of February. shining a little brighter with the prospect of silverware on the horizon. The window for recruitment and change is closed, though murmuring in the hallways of Trigoria still persists.35Trigoria is Rome’s training ground; it just happens to sound like some glorious ancient city. Three men have been sent out beyond the city walls, while two replacements have been drafted in their stead. Come the summer, more highly regarded centurions will arrive; Caesar fully intends to be at the head of the welcome party.
There is an abundance of time between Februarius and Quintilis36July. to right the wrongs of the campaign thus far, but that same time runs quicker through the hourglass with every setback. Caesar insists upon being given time to realise his vision of an all-conquering republic; after all, as legendary conqeror Fabio Capellus said in the wake of a disappointing debut season, Rome wasn’t rebuilt in a day.