A Parallel Pursuit - Ancient Rome
Jack's, so far, temporary departure from his leadership role as Captain (soon to be Major) in the SASR in Afghanistan has enabled him to take time out to reflect on where his future lies.
His unstable childhood environment, family moves all around the globe, dragged out of one school and into the next, his father Joseph's unfaithfulness to Eva, his mother, both widely known and bizarre, saw Jack being left in the custody of his sodomistic father, with no mother to oversee his transition to adulthood.
But Jack was a special boy. He would not abandon Eva as she did him. He excelled in all his classroom endeavours, right through secondary school, graduating valedictorian of his class at Royal Military College Duntroon.
He would not be downtrodden and would follow his dreams. Only those dreams lay outside of military life. Dreams of tracking down Eva, of starting a new, more productive life and maybe, just maybe, settling down one day and having the opportunity of providing his children with a better upbringing than he had.
In doing so Jack was eager to understand more of his past. Eva's background, with Eastern European roots was intriguing, while Joseph's more workaday, with less potetnial for ground-breaking, history steeped stuff.
This he would do during his sabbatical. After all, he had six months before he agreed to give Hughes his final answer.
Little did Jack know that his ancestors' blood line would be defined by the Ancient Romans almost two thousand years before Jack had raised his first weapon in anger.
Ancient Rome 66 A.D.
It would be stating the obvious to say that Europe back then wasn't as it was today. Firstly, the Ancient Greeks had ventured out from their own shores in large, slave-powered ships - triremes and quadremes. Their success relatively limited to near their own shores to the north and North Africa in the south. Their vessels were cumbersome and difficult to navigate.
Wind the clock forward four hundred years. Rome had sacked modern-day France, Spain and Engalnd. amongst others. But mastering the mysterious lands to the northeast was a greater challenge.
But Tacitus, the Emperor Nero's pre-eminent advisor and historian knew. He had his spies across these broad lands. He was compiling his famous Germania, documenting everything he could about the northeast, from present day Germany to the Steppes and Savannahs of ancient Rus'.
But Nero wouldn't listen! His insanity far outweighed his greed. It was Palemon, a disgruntled Courtier of Nero who grasped the opportunity with both hands, hungry for the increase in power and riches. his disdain for Nero could only be lessened by the greater standing he would gain within the Empire should they be successful.
It was a calm summer morning in late August of 66 A.D. that Palemon, Tacitus and a hand-picked crew set off for the promised land to the northeast. Palemon had engaged Pompey, Chryseus and Lucan, the highest ranking of all commanders, helmsmen and navigators in the entire Empire. Add to this leadership team, their choice of the most elite shipboard crews thoughout Rome, Palemon was leaving nothing to chance.
Their flotilla consisted of eighteen manouverable, mid-sized biremes, about one quarter the entire Roman fleet.
Tacitus had clearly articulated the untold wealth of the lands to the northeast. The amber formed over millions of years of fossilisation, the diamonds of the present-day Black Forest in Germany, second to none in clarity and quality.
Pompey had only accepted the challenge after his demands were met. Basically a share of the spoils and a senior position in the new Empire to the northeast. Little did Palemon know what Pompey had in store once they reached their destination.
The journey would be protracted and riddled with treacherous obstacles along the way. Seven bodies of water to negotiate, each one more hazrdous than the last. Navigation conditions varied like the seasons throughout a diverse European weather cycle, twelve months compressed into an angry three month timeslice. Hostile natives from two continents to contend with. The second band so skilled at warfare and so sophisticated in maritime craft. The flotilla did all it could to outrun them, only by the grace of a number of their Pagan and Christian Gods.
A four month journey ensued, that would see mutiny, sabotage, half the flotilla sunk and in excess of half the senior crew perish at the hands of the saboteurs.
Then finally, in January of 67 A.D. land was in sight. Lietuva (present-day Lithuania) and the Nemunas River delta, with all of its riches and arid land, as yet untouched, ripe for plundering - Or was it?
The dramas that the expedition endured were manifold, but would pale into insignifignace compared with the resistance met at the hands of the tribal Lietuvans, the Aestii. Add to this, the harsh environments, both flora and fauna, of this stunning but lethal land and you have a recipe for disaster awaiting Palemon and what remained of his contingent.
The Romans in Lietuva (Lithuania)
The Romans had not met tribal resistance like this before. Their conquest of western Europe was bloody and hard-won. But not like this!
Their consternation wasn't restricted to the passion that the tribal Aestii exhibited, but the unnerving fact that their defence and attack was predicated on the strength of their female warriors. This prediliction went further, inasmuch that the Aestii chiefs were predominantly women.
Lietuvan legend has it that the immortal serpent queen, Eglé, would almost singlehandedly through strength, stealth and acumen, lead the entire Roman contingent to the conclusion she was seeking all along. To enhance the Aestii's strength manifold and create one of the strongest pagan tribes, that would endure centuries without challenge.
Then documented history for Lietuva seemed to be shanghaied for almost a thousand years. No-one can say for certain, but it was fabled that the almost immortal Eglé had contrived this through her penchant for establishing decentralised, independant tribes throughout the land. She was the ancient version of what we now call the control freak. The scary bit, she had followers that would sacrifice all for her, such was her charisma. Control was one thing, but autocracy another. Their was no trace of documented Lietuvan lineage or dynasty establishment beyond Tacitus' Germania, written in the first century A.D. When historians did emerge to map out Lietuva's past it was vague to the extreme, nothing prior to twelve hundred A.D.
Notwithstanding the lack of archival evidence, there was little doubt that Eglé's influence down the centuries had manifested itself in the female lines of the Lietuvan Medieval dynasties.
Jack's journey two thousand years on would draw a striking parallel as he mapped his forefathers backwards from Eva's present-day strain to Medieval Lithuania. A journey of such magnitude and import the outcomes of which he could never have predicted.
Read the full account of the Ancient Roman expedition to Lietuva and the horrendous challenges they had to overcome to conjoin with the Aestii's and Eglé the Serpent Queen in 'The Vytautas Pursuit', Jack Carpenter's debut thriller.