FIELD OF GLORY
Back to the present, Ptolemy saw the Roman commander formation and saw nothing spectacular. But he will be careful.
— Why doesn't he attack? –asked Leonnatos—We are just staring at each other.
— He is not going to move –said Alexander—He is waiting for us to make the first move, clever.
— Why is he clever? –asked Ptolemy.
— The sun.
— If he waits more the sun will be directly to us, blinding our men –answered Alexander—So, lets not keep this Romans waiting.
The king pressed the flanks of his horse and ran in front of his troops.
Julius heard the shouts, cheers and acclamations of the Macedonian army: Ale-xan-dros! Ale-xan-dros! Their voices were like thunders; the men hit their swords against their shields, acclaiming this force of nature called Alexander.
We can't be left behind –thought the Dictator smiling, and he also guided his horse in front of his army, his red cloak dancing in the wind.
— Comrades! –Julius addressed his men—We are here to fight against the most formidable enemy Rome had ever faced –all the ranks of his soldiers were silent and still—This foreign king is not Hannibal, he is not a Gaul or a Teuton, this man –he extended his arm to the Macedonian lines—Is the most extraordinary commander in history, some say is impossible to defeat him, some say he is a god –he made a dramatic pause, the only sound were the shouts of Alexandros!—But we are not Persians or Indians, not even Greeks, we are Romans, and we can defeat the impossible –the legionaries shouted in agreement—You are the ones who destroy Vercingetorix, you can do anything, because, YOU ARE CAESAR'S MEN!
33, 000 throats shout at the same time, hitting their shields with their gladius, and they started shouting, as if competing with the Macedonians: Cae-sar! Cae-sar!
— Brothers! –shouted Alexander and his army fell silent—You have accompanied me through distant lands, together we have suffer cold, heat and hunger, we have fight against Asian kings, and armies more numerous than this, and WE ARE STILL HERE! –his army roared—We are the masters of Asia and we are going to crush these Romans, and demonstrate the world that we are also the Lords of Europe!
His army went insane. And every man shouted at the same time with overwhelming force: ALEXANDROS NIKE!
And the Romans replied as if they have rehearsed: ROMA VICTRIX!
- Sarissaaaas to the FRONT! –shouted the Macedonian officers, ready to start the charge.
Perdikkas and Krateros were commanding the infantry at the center. They knew the strategy of their king, and were in their hands to see the battle was fought according with Alexander's plans.
This was a battle between two outstanding general, between to empires, between two different styles of fighting: the phalanx against the legions. And the phalanx had never been defeated.
The bucinae fill the air with their tunes, giving the order to advance. Rank after rank of legionaries moved in perfect order, their square red shield to the front, they were a perfect wall; impenetrable and full of death promises. Usually the mere sight of the Roman ranks will suffice to make armies break, but not this one. This time they will fight to the last man, the Romans had great determination, they could fight against the gods in their own house and spit on the face of fate.
The Roman Centurions shouted: PILA! And the first rank of legionaries released their javelins to the taxeis of the Macedonian phalanxes.
— Holy Mother %!= With =·"%# On top! –exclaimed Perdikkas, hiding behind his shield. A rain of javelins fell over them; the first wounded men fell, moaning in pain, he saw one man fell, pierced from side to side. When the Romans stopped, Perdikkas tried to take off the pila stuck in his shield. He couldn't. The pila was made in a way that was impossible to take it off, so now their shields were useless and not only that, the momentum was lost—Damn Romans! ADVANCE!
The Romans found themselves in front of the block of soldiers and their sarissas, that were like a palisade. First they draw their short swords known as gladius and cut the tip of the long spears, but that was slow and painful. Many men found their death trying to break through the lines of the Macedonians, the phalanx was a deadly opponent, unstoppable and undefeated, like a giant hydra. You can cut one head but many would appear. But the iron discipline of the Roman soldiers prevail, and they tried their best to keep moving against the odds.
Perdikkas heard the booming voice of Krateros at the distance and he knew it was time. He gave the order and his men took a step back, giving ground to their enemies.
Macedonian right wing, cavalry:
— It has stared –said Hephaistion—Alexander?
The king hadn't order the cavalry to move; he was watching Julius on the other side of the battlefield.
He didn't move his entire forces –thought Alexander—He had at least one legion in reserved, I must be careful.
The king drew his spear, and gave the signal to attack; both cavalry wings moved at the same time, the hetairoi and the allied troops. He knew he had the advantage there, the Roman cavalry was not match to his own. And they charged in wedge formation, with the king at the front. Alexander had the best cavalry in the known world. They were like demons thrown out from Hades ready to flourish on the bones and blood of their enemies.
Julius wasn't any fool; he knew the hetairoi cavalry was the one he had to fear. Roman infantry was far superior to the phalanx formation, but his cavalry was his weak point. The cavalry would decide the battle and he had a plan. He had to defeated the pezetairoi quickly, crush them beyond salvation, and them regroup to make a stand against the cavalry.
Easier said than done –thought Julius. He prayed to Jupiter Optimus Maximus that the Roman cavalry could stop Alexander the sufficient time, and vowed to built the god a temple is he helped him. He knew that even with the gods help his victory wasn't secure because the Lion of Macedonia was his opponent.
Macedonian right wing, cavalry:
Hephaistion followed Alexander closely, always at his right side. The horses raised clouds of dust, and their steps made the earth tremble. For long moments he couldn't see a thing, then, there were the silhouettes of the enemy cavalry, and he embraced himself to receive the clash.
Hephaistion had fought many times, but he always felt the same shivers in his spine when he saw an enemy charge. It was the most impressive and overwhelming moment of the battle. He opened and closed his hand, before resting it on the pommel of his long cavalry sword. And like many times before this day, he vowed to protect his Alexander from anything, even at the cost of his own life.
Krateros and Perdikkas were having big troubles fighting against the Roman infantry. The Roman formation, contrary to the phalanx, was flexible, and could move easily. The Macedonian phalanx was like a gigantic pincushion, and with its long spears gave the troops no chance of wheeling round (1) and once it started moving it was impossible to stop it. It was a titanic effort to make the men moved back in perfect order, making the Romans believe they were giving ground and luring them into a trap.
The idea was to make then taste victory for the Roman commander to move his entire forces and then swallowed them, mobilizing the hidden reserves to outflank the Romans.
Perdikkas swore. Alexander's plan sound very good yesterday, but being there, in the center of the battle was being more difficult than he had imagined.
Ares, please, let this Roman take the bait quickly –thought Perdikkas.
Julius saw his men advancing more and more and heard the cheers of his military Tribunes, they thought they had the battle won. But the Dictator frowned.
— Tribune Longinus! –called Julius.
— Yes, General –the man arrived and saluted.
— Give the order for the men to stop the advance –said Julius firmly, confusing his subordinate.
— But Caesar…they are giving ground, we can finish them –the other members of his military staff silently agreed with Longinus.
— You fool, they are not giving ground, this is a trap.
Macedonian right wing cavalry:
Alexander heard the Roman bucinae sound the order for the infantry to stop. The king cut the throat of his enemy, the wind blew and carried the blood toward him, covering his face. Soaked in blood. Then he stopped and turned to look what was happening at the center of the battle.
— Alexander! –Hephaistion blocked a blow with his shield and moved his horse to his beloved—Don't stay here.
— He saw it.
— Eh? What are you talking about? –Hephaistion kicked his opponent and sank his kopis, a curved slashing sword, in his chest. Alexander started laughing and his friend thought he had gone crazy.
— He saw it! –he was excited as if he had been crowned king of Olympus—He saw my strategy –that surprised Hephaistion, this was the first time it happened. Normally nobody knew what the king's plans were, not even his own officers understand his strategies until they won the battle—This is going to be interesting.
Perdikkas saw the Roman lines in utterly confusion. Why they have stop? It was impossible that they knew about the king's plan. The bucinae sound again and the legionaries went back in order a couple of paces; then the Centurions roared: PILA!
— Not again –muttered Perdikkas, and luckily for him he found a shield among the dead bodies. But many of his men weren't that lucky, and fell under that black rain. Screams of pain filled the air and corpses started to fall.
Koinos saw what was happening and roar with all the force he could summon: ARCHERS!
Perdikkas saw in horror and admiration how the Centurions gathered their men and then they shouted as one entity: TESTUDO! At once the legionaries covered themselves with their shields, forming like a turtle's shell. The arrows fell on them merciless but didn't harm them.
— Bloody Romans! –he exclaimed in frustration. When the battle was over, he was going to kick Alexander for situated him in the center of the battle.
Macedonian right wing, cavalry:
Alexander saw a gap in the Roman cavalry formation and quickly led his men through it. Only he could do that, finding the right moment and the right place to attacked; many generals get confuse in the middle of the battles, seeing nothing more than a bunch of people engaged in a chaotic fight. But for him the battlefield was like a game board, and he was the master of his own pieces.
The Ile Basilike followed him, it was just a matter of time to reach the Romans rearguard and strangled them as he had done with Darius in Gaugamela. Alexander could feel his pulse accelerate, every fiber of his body burning…
This was not Gaugamela and Julius was not Darius. The king found the auxiliary cohorts arranged in both flanks, a wall of shields and javelins used like spears, ready to impale every horse or rider who dare to approach.
— HALT! –Alexander roared.
This was a trap.
If the king ordered the charge, the horses would panic and crushed their own forces. Oh, he liked Caesar more and more.
The Centurions took advantage of the phalanx weak point. A man called Scaeva, famous for his heroic performance at the Battle of Dyrrhachium where he took no less than 120 arrows on his shield (2), took his Centuria away, abandoning the part of the line that had opened a small gap in the enemy's lines, and quickly round to attack the taxei right flank from behind. Literally they carved they way through, bloodily and savagely.
Soon, many other Centurias followed, 2,000 men in total, outflanking the Macedonian infantry and cut to pieces the hypaspist and the hoplites too, with the ability of men who had always lived with a sword in their hands.
Perdikkas, Krateros, and Seleukos who was in charge of the hypaspist troops, were in serious troubles. They had suffered severe casualties following Alexander's instructions, but now, if they didn't receive some help, they would be no more.
Perdikkas sensed his men were starting to panic. The Romans fought using the gladius, a short sword with two edges, and the damaged they cause was terrified, it cut limps with lethal efficiency. Something the Macedonian troops had never encounter before.
Macedonian left flank, infantry reserved:
Antigonus the One Eye was in charged of the reserve. He had orders to attack only when the Romans had advance the sufficient, but the Romans had stopped and changed their strategy. He swore. He didn't know what to do. The Romans were destroying his comrades, the phalanxes had gaps everywhere, and once the gaps appeared it was the end of the formation.
At last he made up his mind and ordered to attack.
When Meleager at the right flank of the reserved infantry saw what Antigonus was doing, he ordered to attack too, and soon the Roman infantry was surrounded, though not as Alexander had planned.
Julius almost smiled when he saw the reserve troops emerged from their hidden place, behind the trees that surrounded the zone. Their officers saw him with awe. He had saved them from a terrible defeat.
— Order the Third legion to advance –said Julius, his blue eyes watching the battlefield with attention.
The reserved legion was order to advance and join the battle to help their comrades. If the cavalry didn't hurry, it would be the end of the phalanxes.
Macedonian right wing, cavalry:
Alexander charged again against the Roman cavalry and pushed them to their rearguard. He intended to crush the auxiliary cohorts with their own cavalry, break their lines and run to the aid of his infantry before there was nothing to save.
His plan worked and little by little the hetairoi cavalry pushed the Romans and their allies back. The auxiliary cohorts fought bravely, but at the end Alexander broke their lines successfully.
Julius saw this, and immediately draw his sword, and order his escort, his group of 24 lictors and his military staff to follow him. He was going to stop Alexander even if that cost him his life.
— ROMA VICTRIX! –shouted Julius and charged directly to the king.
No. He was not Darius. He will not run away.
The remnants of the auxiliary cohorts were still trying to stop the Macedonian attacked when they saw their general. Every man alive injured or not shouted: CAESAR! And fought with new energy, because they new He was watching them and didn't want to disappoint him.
Alexander turned when he heard the shouts. There was the famous Roman commander, impressive in his full military glory. The king smiled. This was the only thing he never had, a single combat against a great opponent in the middle of an epic battle. He rushed to encounter Julius, and Julius returned the smile.
The winner will built the most impressive empire the world have ever seen.
The battle appeared to stop, the men near to the generals turned to look as they clashed. Julius gladius was blocked by Alexander's kopis, the eyes of both men glowing with excitement.
They weren't men, in that moment, they were the gods of war.
The Dictatorpressed the attack with a skilled sequence of blows, the king blocked and dodge, and pressed the flanks of his horse to move, trying to connect a fatal strike from behind. Alexander feinted two attacks and cut Julius's arm, the blood flow, but wasn't a serious injure, so the Roman attacked again. But the Macedonian had anticipated the move and dodge the gladius that was seeking his heart.
Hephaistion, always near the king, was too concentrated in the battle. He feared deeply for his beloved one because, until this day, they had never encounter such a formidable opponent. His heart ached. His eyes were on Alexander and he didn't see a pila threw to him. The javelin pierced his armor and the skin of his left side; the point was visible through his back. He felt dizzy. The wound was bleeding badly. He heard Alexander's powerful voice at the distance, he wanted to do something but he could. Hephaistion caught the king's uneven eyes for a moment and then he passed out, falling from his horse.
He didn't hear the king calling after him.
Julius stopped his sword one millimeter from the king's neck. Alexander's uneven eyes saw the Roman as if he couldn't comprehend what was just happened, he could only think about Hephaistion, and his own death seem not so important in comparison. The only thing that mattered in that moment was Hephaistion's life; the rest was nothing.
Alexander was the only one who could make the hetairoi cavalry, do things that other men could only dream; if there was still a way to win the king was the man to do so, but with Hephaistion wounded and bleeding almost to his dead, he was un-able to continue.
His soul mate was in danger, and everything: time and space frozen. He couldn't go on without him. He, who had won against the impossible in Persia and in India, had done so because Hephaistion was there.
Leonnatos ran to help Hephaistion and all the men in the hetairoi cavalry turned to see his king at the mercy of the Roman. The battle in the right wing stopped.
The Roman legions practically destroy the Macedonian infantry. In the left wing of the Macedonian cavalry, the Bactrian and Thracian cavalry was pushing back the Romans and his allies, but had no idea the auxiliaries were waiting for them. In the right wing the enemy cavalry was no more, along with the auxiliary cohorts, but the battle was already been decided.
No Hephaistions were harmed during the writing of this battle…well just a little.
A/N: I sure that Alexander would had done something more spectacular in a battle like this, and see through my homemade strategy. I did the best I could but sadly I'm a very poor commander, so I'm very sorry for the mistakes.
In order to make this work I fused two Kings of Epirus in one: Alexander and Pyrrhus, the later actually fought against Rome and lost. I took Pyrrhus army and battles and gave them to Alexander of Epirus, who actually fought in Italy too.
(1) Livy. Rome and the Mediterranean, p 116.
(2) Adrian Goldsworthy. Caesar: life of a Colossus, p 416