Part 5: DEFENDING THE DANUBE
Our legion, the Second Italica, returned home [AD 199] and began the usual routine of patrols, construction and administration that typically takesup the time of a legion on the Danube frontier. During the next seven years I gained a wife (Antonia) and two sons (Marius and Julianus). I was busy with accounts and reports, and for one whole year [AD 201] served with the river fleet (the Classis Pannonica) on patrol ships that continually sailed or rowed along the Danube. The aim of these patrols by the Lusoria-class galleys was to prevent unauthorised river crossings by the barbarian tribes, and to ferry messages and important personnel from one point to another. The fleet had transport ships, too, with which they could ferry troops directly to trouble spots on either side of the Danube. I enjoyed my time with the fleet, and got to know the crew of the Aquila very well. We were based at Taurunum.
Friends and family; Demetrius at centre, young Marius stands on the front step
Plague came to the province of Noricum [AD 206], it took little Julianus and it took my father too, though he was never well in his final years. Bodies were burned on a low hill south of Lauricium, you could see the column of smoke rise up every evening for four months.
There were no major battles in this period, and no long marches, but the legion still fought the barbarians acrossthe river. Six times I was stationed in one of the northern forts and there were fights aplenty, skirmishes in the dark forests, the patrolling of tribal villages and trails, and the enforcement of treaties through a show of force or punitive action. The black forests seemed endless and we used local guides at times to help us navigate the trails twisting beneath the shadowed canopy of branches. Our century used a local scout called Gundabad, who proved loyal and knowledgeable and able to drink beer by the barrelful.
Gundabad's family had been murdered by a rival tribe that had risen to prominence and begun to create an anti-Roman movement. These movements were springing up amongst the tribes every other year, that was why were were there in the forests, to crush them before they became something dangerous. Carrying the grudge, and wanting vengeance, Gundabad approached out patrol to offer his services - that was three years ago, now.
The loyal Gundabad