With a whole continent to reconquer, Rome will require reinforcements from across the republic. The three current legions contain just 108 available men between them – and 55 of those men are not yet old enough to be considered for service.1Men had to be at least 20 years old to serve with the Roman army. More units will need to be summoned, be it from the provinces of Brindisi, Campanie and Lucques,2It is here in Lucca in 56 BC that Caesar, Pompey and Crassus reaffirmed their political alliance. And lo, the first triumvirate was born. It lasted three years; two seasons longer than Tottenham Hotspurs’ Venables-Livermore-Clemence axis. or as far afield as Gaul, Germania and Hispania.3Though they could not become legionaries in the BC period, non-Roman citizens could join the Auxilia and earn citizenship on the battlefield. Caesar himself utilised cavalrymen from Gaul, Hispania and the Germanic tribes during his most successful conquests in the Gallic Wars.
Caesar sends his most trusted scouts far and wide across republican territories in search of new recruits, from Belgique’s Jupiler Pro League to the subjugated Super League of Macedonia. These scouts are wary of costly ventures east to Judea and Syria, citing a lack of talent and potential difficulties in obtaining work permits.
They also counsel against crossing the Med for the time being. The success of one former legionary at the Olimpico, now achieving great things in Britain, has given rise to a host of prospects and pretenders being heralded as the next great pharoah. As one shrewd adviser points out, it’s not good to have too many Salahs.4Augustus’ teacher, Arius Didymus, famously said told his young student that “too many teachers is not good” – a pun on a line in Homer’s Iliad, which read “too many leaders is not good”. So this is a pun on a pun. Anyway, Augustus promptly had Caesar’s son, Caesarion, strangled to death.
The first new arrivals into camp have plenty of experience under their belts, but perhaps not as many battles as one might expect. Giuseppe Rossus is a technically gifted centurion whose talents have been dimmed by the misfortune of injury. Had he not torn his cruciate whilst on duty in Hispania, who knows what he could have become. Instead, here he is, a wandering cripple on the wrong side of thirty, with no contract, no unit and no Cisalpine village earmarked for retirement.5Veterans often ended up seeing out their days in various locations across Italy and the wider republic.
Caesar recalls the fleeting achievements of 2010/11 AD, and again in Italy three years later, when Rossus was ruthless, prolific and, most importantly, fit. If he can recapture that old form – and refrain from further injuring his Achilles knee – in the next four weeks, a one-year contract as a reserve will be on the table.
Giuseppe is thrown straight into the fray, leading the attack against Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht. Already four goals to the good, Rossus well and truly puts the peasants to the sword, slipping between the lines to net his first goal, then looping in a header to complete a well-taken brace.
The performance impresses his commander, who promotes him to a prominent position for the rest of preseason. Though Rossus’ body remains unbroken, he struggles to make any further impression in the forward ranks. He is anonymous in battle during the next four encounters, failing to score and registering a 6.5 average. With a heavy heart, Caesar cuts Rossus loose, consigning him to the life of a sword-for-hire in the minor provinces – possibly Asia Minor – for the remainder of his career.
Rossus had arrived alongside the gravely wounded Abou Diaby, a fallen warrior of Gaul. Hobbling into camp on reconstructed ankles, unsteady calves and groaning thighs, the former Arsenal man is a shadow of his former self. Caesar doesn’t dare risk him in skirmishes, but allows him to remain in quarters for the month, regaling the tirones with tales of injury woe, international mutiny, and kicking Celtic chieftain John Terry into unconsciousness.
One of those tirones is Caesar’s first permanent signing: a 17-year-old novice by the name of Mattia Vivianus from Brixia6Brescia, costing £2m. Though young Mattia has fought just one battle since reaching adulthood, scouts in the region suggest he could mature into a fine tribune in the not too distant future. Until he reaches the age of maturity, the deep lying playmaker will train with the U20s, or serve patrols in one of the nearby provinces.
Another young charge is added to the ranks on deadline day. Bruno Alexandre Vieira Almeida is his name, though he prefers to be known as Xadas – a moniker passed down from his family through the generations. Technically intriguing but with much to learn, the Hispanic playmaker only just surpasses the minimum requirements of a young Roman soldier – 11 bravery, 11 teamwork, 11 work rate, 12 stamina7The Roman army is all about discipline, fitness, and working for your fellow man. This is reflected in these chosen attributes. – and may have to adapt his game to a role in central midfield if he is to succeed in Rome.
In terms of senior troops, the Senate’s coffers were all but dry. £65m was splashed out on expensive acquisitions before Caesar’s arrival – some of whom were drafted in from outside of the republic’s boundaries, much to the chagrin of the new ruler.8Brazil didn’t exist in the Roman world, so recruiting Daniel Fuzato from there would be somewhat controversial. The lack of currency severely restricts Caesar’s hand in the market, and prevents him from shaping Rome in his own image (for now, at least).9Over time, Caesar reduced the Senate’s prominence in government, until they all stabbed him a lot.
With just £20m left for recruitment, and little room for manoeuvre in the wage budget, Caesar has to compromise. This paves the way for the less than glorious return of Stefano Okakus, former soldier of Rome. Much has changed in the six years since he left Rome; fracturous campaigns in Italy and Britain have taken a heavy toll, even if he enjoyed something of a renaissance in Gallica Belgica.
Approaching thirty years of age and with a considerable list of injuries on his medical report, Okakus is available for a mere £6.5m. He is no Marcus Antonius, but he works hard for his fellow Romans, offers something different from the rest of the aquiliferi, and was nurtured right here in the heart of the capital. Homegrown, yes, but more auxiliary than legionary.10Those considered homegrown would usually qualify to serve in the legion, while non-Roman citizens would serve as auxiliary troops. Not the case here, as a 2.5 star injury-prone 29-year-old is hardly centurion material. Stefano arrives not on horseback, but on a stretcher; once he recovers from his latest thigh strain, he will prove a useful addition to the squad.
Just as more men look to join Rome’s cause, one has eyes elsewhere.
Kostas Manolas, resolute centre-half of Macedon, seeks glory for himself – not with Rome, but with Hispanic rivals Real Madrid. Calling upon all of his oratory skills, Caesar attempts to persuade the defender that the republic will grow in time, but Manolas is impatient and rebuffs any attempt at diplomacy. There is no chance that Caesar will acquiesce to his request; the last man he allowed to leave for Hispania brought his name into great disrepute.11Caesar made Quintus Cassius Longinus governor of Hispania Ulterior; within a year or so, he had been chased off the peninsula by an angry rebellion.
News of Kostas’ dissent spreads amongst the men. At first count, the majority of the men are behind Caesar, led by the ever-dependable Daniele De Rossus. That said, there are four who side with the rebel. Young footsoldiers Pellegrinius and Riccardius are arrogant, headstrong and of little consequence. Manolas’ defensive partner Federico Fazio is motivated by self-interest. But most disappointing is the objection of Edin Dzeko, veteran warrior of Illyria and an elder statesman within a young army.
Caesar addresses his troops, passionately stating that the departure of such an important legionary would weaken Rome greatly. Dzeko and Riccardius are moved by the speech and promptly fall in line, but Fazio and Pellegrinius are not easily swayed, openly disrespecting their leader.
This sends Caesar into a rage; after a fearsome dressing down in front of the dressing room, left-back Pellegrinius is promptly shipped out to Bologna for a year as punishment.
More complex is the developing situation with Fazio and Manolas, two of the legion’s four senior centre-halves. With little money in the coffers and the registration census fast approaching, both will have to stay for now – but they have made a powerful enemy.
Roman forebears mercilessly crushed their fair share of Greek revolts, sacking and imposing their will over the years.12Athens was sacked in 86 BC during the time of Sulla. Four decades later, Greece groaned under the strain of the Roman Civil War. Soon it will be Caesar’s turn to do the same.