Authors: Christopher Lee Buckner
Text copyright 2012 Christopher Lee Buckner
All Rights Received
Other Publications by author
Empire America: Part One (Amazon - 2012)
Brink of Extinction: Part One (Amazon – 2012)
Conquest of Heroes: End of an Era (Double Dragon Publishing – 2013)
Conquest of Heroes: Trinity (Double Dragon Publishing – 2014)
Follow this author on his blog:
For my mother
For your love and support while writing this book
The Second Punic War is widely considered one of the ancient world’s greatest military conflicts – fought between the two super-powers of their era: the Roman Republic and Carthage. I’ve tried to capture the spirit of this war in this novel to the best of my abilities. I’ve long been fascinated by this war and how it reshaped the world, not just antiquity, but the modern world as well. If Rome had lost, where might Western Civilization gone?
Despite my care to details, mostly regarding the general politics of the conflict, the fury of the warfare and the battles that made the Second Punic War so bloody, this book is a work of
and as the author, I take a number of liberties to best serve the story, and my own interests. If you so desire and want to know every detail about the Second Punic War, there are plenty of non-fiction accounts. I would recommend
The Ghosts of Cannae
by Robert L. O’Connell, or
The Punic Wars
by Nigel Bagnall.
It is important for new and old readers alike to understand that Historical Fiction is just
. Changes and liberties are open to interpretation or exaggerations as it is the story that takes precedence over facts.
First, one issue that has been pointed out a number of times from those that have read
Swords of Rome
, and that is my description of the Roman army during this time. Some have criticized me for making the Roman legions seem more in line with the Late Republic’s Marius military reforms. Congratulations, you are correct. The legions seen in this novel are, in fact, based more on Marius’ reforms than how the Roman army was organized during the Second Punic War. The reasoning behind this is simply – the concept of Marius’ design for the Roman legion is the most widely recognized formation of the Roman military machine by the wider audience, and as this book is meant to be accessible for the general reader, not just a person that might consider themselves a historical fiction fan, but any fan of fiction, I felt it was important to design
legions for Swords of Rome in the image of Marius’ own.
Marius’ military reforms created a model army that is very much the same we see today – in the design of ranks, standards, formations and general tactics. The legions of the Second Punic War were hardly the prime fighting men
who would make Rome the masters of the world. I do cover, nevertheless, the weaknesses of the Roman legions of this time, and why they were hamstrung when facing Hannibal’s veterans. Even so, the legions of this war simply aren’t that interesting, or so I felt as the writer; thus my desire to make changes and pull more inspiration for the late Republic than the early.
Another note that should be included is the overall timeframe of this conflict. The actual war was long, lasting nearly twenty years. However, it was only in the first two years – starting with Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps, and ending with Cannae that
was truly exciting, from a literary point of view. Rome spent much of the remaining year’s post-Cannae rebuilding, reforming, and running from Hannibal as they refused, despite the Carthaginian’s best efforts, to fight his veterans in the field. Rome would lose more battles after Cannae against Hannibal, but never again would they face a similar fate so dramatic. Ultimately, time and his own government were against Hannibal’s efforts to subjugate Rome, which I attempt to cover in this novel.
sake, I have shortened the conflict down to around seven years, with the first two being the focus of this novel. Hopefully, readers can understand this reasoning and enjoy the passing and more focused elements that made the Second Punic Wars so dramatic.
The concept of runaway gladiator slaves was created solely for this novel. I felt it important to create an outside element that would take interest in Hannibal’s war with Rome – a warrior
who would have a personal reason for seeking Roman blood to such a high degree. There were many nations beyond Rome’s borders that sided against the Republic, but I felt something internal, and someone that could demonstrate the underlining hatred which much of the world had against the small up-start state. Furthermore, there is almost no indication of how much the civilian population of Italy suffered during the Second Punic War, yet we know from modern conflicts the cost of innocent lives suffered during such massive engagements.
“Blood, Mago – I want blood on my sword!” Hannibal yelled as he turned to face his younger brother, Mago Barca. “Yet, my blade remains sheathed in its scabbard, unstained!” His mood was bad for the past several weeks. The siege was not going well. This was made worse by the fact that his men’s nerves seemed to be wavering with each day the city of Saguntum held, now over eight months. And, with each week that went by was another that Saguntum greatest ally, Rome might send its legions from Italy to Spain in defense of its treaty.
Hannibal wanted war with
Rome. It was his eventual goal. However, he needed Saguntum and its supplies if he was going to make the crossing over the Alps. More importantly, he needed the support of the nearby Gallic tribes, which watched eagerly for Hannibal’s success or failure. If he won the siege than they – tens of thousands of fearsome barbarian tribesmen would flock to his cause. With his Spanish and Carthaginian forces would swarm like a locust horde. However, if he failed to take Saguntum his allies might turn against him, seeing weakness in his resolve and challenge his stronghold in Spain; New Carthage might fall. If that happened, how long before Rome followed and took what remained of the new territories in Spain or even the attacked the homeland?
he city elders are weakened from starvation and thirst, brother. I doubt they could hold a week longer. By then we might be able to present terms for their surrender,” Mago knew his brother too well to know anything, but absolute victory would satisfy his craving.
Hannibal rebuked. “I want those walls! I want the city fathers' heads on spikes for their defiance! I want the grain and, not to mention our men want the cunt and booty that await them in Saguntum!”
, brother, barring an earthquake or an act of the gods, I doubt our intents or the wants of plunder and rape for our men will be enough to bring down Saguntum’s walls.”
Hannibal leered at his brother for a long while, not angrily, but focused as his mind was drawing up a plan of desperation. It was in these moments of crisis that Hannibal knew he was at his best – when his back was up against the wall that desperation gave birth to his greatest
and most daring plans. His father Hamilcar, who had never lost a battle against Rome during the war in Sicily a generation ago, had taught him never to run from a superior foe:
It was only when faced with a rival who was larger, meaner and stronger than yourself did one truly understand your own worth,
he would say around the campfire.
“Get your men ready to storm the gates when I give the signal,” Hannibal finally broke the long silence as he leaped down from his horse and pushed his way through the bodies of the gathering soldiers. Mago did not ask any questions as this was the reaction he was hoping to see from his brother. He looked around, noticing the prying eyes of dozens of men standing around him who had overheard the whole conversation.
Smiling wide, Mago drew his sword and held it up over the head of his horse.
“Well, do you want this fucking city or not!” Mago cried as loud as he could. His men roared as they raised their assorted blades to the sky, bashing iron agains
t their shields, and bellowed murderous expectation. Saguntum was going to fall and everyone, and everything in the city would be theirs for the taking.
Gisgo hadn’t time to scream before an arrow plunged into his right eye socket. He did his duty as one of Hannibal’s bodyguards – giving his life so his general may live. Hannibal liked and respected the big Numidian who first served with his father decades earlier. He had three sons back in Carthage and a dozen more bastard children here in Spain. Hannibal vowed that he would tell Gisgo story, about how he had died bravely in battle, even if the veteran never saw the man that took his life.
“Keep moving forward you dogs!” Hannibal barked as he urged the torrent of men all around him to push against the onslaught of arrows, slingshots and rocks being hurled from the stone walls. Hundreds were wounded as they
bled on the ground, trampled by their comrades who refused to waver behind Hannibal’s urging. They knew they had to reach the rampart and begin to scale the walls or more of them would be going to the underworld before the day was done. Hannibal, however, did not attend to be among them. He was determined even if he had to tear down Saguntum’s walls with his fingernails, stone-by-stone, he would. To fail would mean certain death, either by his supporters here in Spain, or back home in Carthage where generals who failed in the field were often crucified outside the city walls.
Finally, within the mud-soaked grounded of blood and gore the first set of ladders rose to the rim of the stone walls. Archers from the ground did their best to
ensure they stayed in place as men made ready to scale them.
Gripping one hand tightly around the base of one ladder, his shield held
firmly, on the other hand, positioned above his head, Hannibal turned to his army and cried out, “Follow me to glory! Saguntum shall be ours! The wine, the gold, and the cunt are ours for the taking!” His men bellowed with excitement as Hannibal was the first up the ladders, soon followed by dozens more men across the length of the southern wall.
The defenders held fast as they threw down a volley of arrows and stones. Men’s heads caved in,
and bodies feathered, but still they climbed with madding determination never before seen as Hannibal was the first to reach the top. He did not know if anyone had followed him. He had heard over the deafening roar some of those below him toppled to their doom as their bodies were crushed by falling stones and well aimed slingshots. Regardless, he pressed forward and locked sights on the first man – a boy really that came within range of his sword.
Hannibal was no stranger to killing. He had taken his first life when he was eleven years old, and had trained to use a sword the
moment, he dropped the rattle. He was a Barca, a famed and feared family of Carthaginian warriors who knew nothing of defeat or dishonored. As the oldest son of Hamilcar – a man in his own right that was a terror to the Romans during the last war with the Republic for control of Sicily, a great deal was expected of Hannibal. He was groomed from boyhood, like the kings of Sparta or Macedonia to take up his father’s mantel and carry out his dream of a Mediterranean world dominated by Carthage, and not the upstart city-state of Rome. So far, there had been one setback already with his home-state’s capitulation during the last war, and the dishonor that followed the Mercenary Wars soon after when Carthage could not pay the armies it had paid to fight Rome, now turned against their mother state. Hannibal would restore his beloved city’s status in the world – he would elevate it at any cost.
Hannibal’s father used to say that Carthage was
responsible for Rome's existence. If it weren’t for our help, they would never have overthrown their old kings. Now, look what they’ve done to our great nation. We are but a shadow of our former glory. You, Hannibal, you and your brothers will reclaim Carthage’s honor and restore our rightful place at the head of Mediterranean – as it should be.
Those words had echoed through Hannibal’s head since he was a boy, more so at present than ever before. However, he knew what he did now wasn’t just for his father’s memory, or for Carthaginian domination, but for himself as well. If he could do what kings and warlords, barbarians and Greeks could not do before – topple the Roman Republic, he would be a god made flesh – forever immortalized as one of the greatest generals of all-time – if not superior even to Hannibal’s own idol, Alexander the Great.