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A Struggle for Rome: Volume 2

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A Struggle for Rome: Volume 2
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Felix Dahn
Date Published: 2010/10
Page Count: 432
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-313-7
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-314-4

The second volume in this special two volume Leonaur edition

The scholarship of Felix Dahn on matters concerning the Roman Empire—particularly as it touched upon the lands and people of what is now Germany—is well known and of the highest order. Dahn made several successful forays into the world of fiction, combining his academic knowledge with tales of adventure and drama set within the ancient world he knew so well. However, it is widely accepted that his magnum opus of the times of the Goths and Romans is the monumental, A Struggle for Rome, published originally in three volumes. Leonaur is pleased to re-present this classic work of fiction in its entirety within two substantial volumes for your reading pleasure. The narrative of the story is presented in sequential chapters throughout the entire work so this two volume edition in no way compromises the original. The setting for the story is principally between the years 526 to 553 A.D. Rome has long been divided into the Western and Eastern Empires. Justinian rules the Byzantines of the east and the Rome of the west is now ruled by the Ostrogoths. Their king, Theodoric has just died and there are those who plan to take advantage of the ensuing period of instability. Justinian plans to reintegrate the Western Empire—by force—into a great new empire, but there are Goths who seek to maintain their hold on Italy by taking power for themselves. A third force has also arisen, these are the traditional Romans who wish to rebuild the greatest city state the world has ever known so that it once again becomes great and free of the influence of the people of the north or the east. The stage is thus set for an engrossing tale of intrigue, violence and high drama on and off the field of conflict. Available in softcover and hardcover with dust jacket.

And meanwhile the suffering and exhaustion of the citizens in Rome reached its highest point. Hunger thinned the ranks, never very full, of the defenders on the walls.<br>
The Prefect in vain did his utmost. In vain he had recourse to all possible measures of persuasion or despotism. In vain he lavishly opened his coffers to provide the means of existence for the people.<br>
For the stores of grain which he had procured from Sicily and garnered in the Capitol were exhausted. He promised incredible rewards to any boat which should succeed in running the blockade of the King’s ships and bring provisions to the city; to every mercenary who ventured to creep through the gates and the tents of the besiegers and bring back food. But Totila’s watchfulness was not to be deceived.<br>
At first the promised reward had tempted a few avaricious and daring men to venture out at night. But when Earl Teja, next morning, caused their heads to be thrown over the walls at the Flaminian Gate, even the most venturesome lost all desire to follow their example.<br>
The dung of animals was sold at a high price. Hungry women fought for the weeds and nettles which they found on the heaps of rubbish. Long since had hunger taught the populace to eat greedily unheard-of things. And countless deserters fled from the city to the Goths. Teja would have forced them to return, in order the sooner to oblige the city to surrender; but Totila gave orders that they should be received and fed, and that care should be taken that they did not injure themselves by the too sudden gratification of their ravenous appetites.<br>
Cethegus now spent his nights upon the walls. At various hours he himself, spear and shield in hand, went the round of the patrols, and sometimes took the place of a sentinel who was overcome with hunger or the want of sleep. His example certainly had the greatest effect on the brave. The two Licinii, Piso, and Salvius Julianus stood by the Prefect and his blindly-devoted Isaurians with enthusiasm.<br>
But not so all Romans; not Balbus, the gormandiser.<br>
“No, Piso,” said Balbus one day, “I cannot endure it any longer. It is not in a man’s power, at least not in mine. Holy Lucullus! who would have thought that I should ever give my last and largest diamonds for half a rock-marten!”<br>
“I remember the time,” answered Piso, laughing, “when you would have put your cook in irons if he had let a lobster boil a minute too long.”<br>
“A lobster! Mercy on us! How can you recall such a picture to my mind! I would give my immortal soul for one claw of a lobster, or even for the tail. And never to sleep one’s fill! To be awakened, if not by hunger, by the trumpets of the patrol!”<br>
“Look at the Prefect! For the last fourteen days he has not slept fourteen hours. He lies upon his hard shield, and drinks rain-water out of his helmet.”<br>
“The Prefect! He need not eat. He lives upon his pride, like the bear on his fat, and sucks his own gall. He is made of nothing but sinews and muscles, pride and hatred! But I—who had accumulated such soft white flesh, that the mice nibbled at me when I slept, thinking that I was a Spanish ham!—Do you know the latest news? A whole herd of fat oxen was driven into the Gothic camp this morning—all from Apulia; darlings of gods and men!”<br>
The next day early Piso, with Salvius Julianus, came to wake the Prefect, who had lain down on the wall by the Porta Portuensis, close to the most important point of defence, the bolt across the river.<br>
“Forgive me for disturbing your rare slumbers.”<br>
“I was not asleep; I was awake. Tell me your news, tribune.”<br>
“Last night Balbus deserted his post with twenty citizens. They let themselves down from the Porta Latina by ropes. Outside there had been heard all night long the lowing of Apulian herds. It seems that their bellowing was irresistible.”<br>
But the smile of the satirist faded away when he looked at the Prefect’s face.<br>
“Let a cross thirty feet high be erected before the house of Balbus in the Via Sacra. Every deserter who falls into our hands shall be crucified thereon.”<br>
“General—Constantinus abolished the punishment of crucifixion in the name of our Saviour,” said Salvius Julianus reprovingly.<br>
“Then I re-introduce the practice in honour of Rome. That Emperor no doubt held it to be impossible that a Roman noble and tribune could desert his post for the sake of roast meat.”<br>
“I have other news. I can no longer set the watch on the tower of the Porta Pinciana. Of the sixteen mercenaries nine are either dead or sick.”<br>
“Almost the same thing is reported by Marcus Licinius, at the Porta Tiburtina,” said Julianus. “Who can ward off the danger which threatens us on all sides?”<br>
“I! and the courage of the Romans. Go! Let the heralds summon all the citizens, who may yet be in the houses, to the Forum Romanum.”<br>
“Sir, there are only women, children, and sick people—”<br>
“Obey, tribune!”<br>
And with a dark expression on his face the Prefect descended from the walls, mounted his noble Spanish charger, and, followed by a troop of mounted Isaurians, made a long round through the city, everywhere assuring himself that the sentinels were on the alert, and examining the troops; thus giving the herald time to summon the people, and the latter to obey. He advanced, very slowly, along the right bank of the Tiber. A few ragged people crept out of their huts to stare in dull despair at the passing horsemen. Only at the Bridge of Cestius did the throng become thicker.
Cethegus stopped his horse in order to muster the guard on the bridge. Suddenly, from the door of a low hut, there rushed a woman with dishevelled hair, holding a child in her arms. Another pulled at her ragged skirt. <br>
“Bread? bread?” she asked; “can stones be softened by tears until they become bread? Oh no! They remain as hard—as hard as that man. Look, children, that is the Prefect of Rome. He upon the black horse, with the crimson crest and the terrible eyes! But I fear him no longer. Look, children! that man forced your father to keep watch on the walls day and night, until he fell dead. Curses on the Prefect of Rome!”