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A Struggle for Rome: Volume 1

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A Struggle for Rome: Volume 1
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Felix Dahn
Date Published: 2010/10
Page Count: 444
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-311-3
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-312-0

Three volumes in a 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.

“Today?” cried Julius.<br>
“Today none of the country people who usually pass on their way from Regium to Colum, made their appearance, and a trooper, whom I sent to Regium for news, has never returned.<br>
“That still proves nothing,” said Valerius obstinately. His heart rebelled against the thought of a landing of his hated enemies. “The waves have often before rendered the way impassable.”<br>
“But just now I have been some distance on the road to Regium, and when I laid my ear to the ground, I felt it tremble under the tramp of many horses approaching in mad haste. You must fly!”<br>
Valerius and Julius now took down their weapons, which hung upon the pillars of the room. Valeria sighed deeply, and pressed her hand to her heart. “What is to be done?” she asked.<br>
“Man the Pass of Jugum,” cried Valerius, “through which the coast-road runs. It is very narrow, and can be held for some time.”<br>
“Eight of my men are already there; I will join them as soon as you are mounted. The other half of my troop shall escort you on your journey. Haste!”<br>
But ere they could leave the room, a Gothic soldier, covered with blood and mire, rushed in.<br>
“Fly!” he cried, “they are there!”<br>
“Who is there, Gelaris!” asked Thorismuth.<br>
“The Greeks! Belisarius! the devil!”<br>
“Speak,” ordered Thorismuth.<br>
“I got to the pine-wood before Regium without seeing anything suspicious, but also without meeting with a soul upon the way. As, looking eagerly forward, I rode past a thick tree, I felt a pull at my neck as if my head would be torn from my shoulders, and the next minute I lay on the road under my horse.”<br>
“Badly sat, Gelaris,” scolded Thorismuth.<br>
“Oh yes, of course! A noose of horse-hair round his neck, and an arrow whistling past his head, and a better rider would fall than Gelaris, son of Genzo! Two demons—wood-devils or goblins they seemed to me—rushed out of the bushes and over the ditch, tied me upon my horse, took me between their little shaggy ponies, and ho!—”<br>
“Those are Belisarius’s Huns!” cried Valerius.<br>
“Away they went with me. When I came to myself again, I was in Regium in the midst of the enemy, and there I learned everything. The Queen-regent is murdered, war is declared, the enemy has taken Sicily by surprise, the whole island has gone over to the Emperor—”<br>
“And the fortress, Panormus?”<br>
“Was taken by the fleet, which made its way into the harbour. The mast-heads were higher than the walls of the town. From thence they shot their arrows, and jumped on to the walls.”<br>
“And Syracusae?” asked Valerius.<br>
“Fell through the treachery of the Sicilians; the Gothic garrison is murdered. Belisarius rode into Syracusae amidst a shower of flowers, and—for it was the last days of his consulate—threw gold coins about him, amidst the applause of the population.”<br>
“And where is the commodore: where is Totila?”<br>
“Two of his ships were sent to the bottom by the pointed prows of the triremes; his own and one other. He sprang into the sea in full armour—and is—not yet—fished up again.”<br>
Valeria sank speechless upon a couch.<br>
“The Greek general,” continued the messenger, “landed yesterday, in the dark and stormy night, near Regium. The town received him with acclamation. He will only halt until he has re-ordered his army, and will then march at once to Neapolis. His vanguard—the yellow-skinned troopers who caught me—were to advance at once and take the Pass of Jugum. I was to be their guide. But I led them far away—to the west—into the sea-swamps—and escaped—in the darkness of evening. But—they shot—arrows after me—and one hit—I can speak—no more—” and he fell clattering to the ground.
“He is a dead man,” cried Valerius, “they carry poisoned arrows! Up! Julius and Thorismuth! take my child to Neapolis. I myself will go to the pass, and cover your retreat.”<br>
In vain were Valeria’s prayers; the face and mien of the old man assumed an expression of iron resolve.<br>
“Obey!” he cried, “I am the master of this place, and the son of this soil, and I will ask the Huns of Belisarius what they have to do in my fatherland! No, Julius! I must know that you are with Valeria. Farewell!”<br>
While Valeria and Julius, with their Gothic escort and most of the slaves, fled at full speed on the road to Neapolis, Valerius hurried, at the head of half-a-dozen slaves, out of the garden of the villa, towards the pass, which—not far from the beginning of his estates—formed an arch over the road to Regium. The rock on the left hand, to the north, was inaccessible, and on the right, to the south, it fell abruptly into the sea, whose waves often overflowed the road. But the mouth of the pass was so narrow, that two men, standing side by side with their shields, could close it like a door. Thus Valerius might hope to keep the pass, even against a much superior force, long enough to afford the swift horses of the fugitives a sufficient start.<br>
As the old man was hastening through the moonless night along the narrow path which led between the sea and his vineyards to the pass, he remarked to the right hand, on the sea, at a considerable distance from the land, the bright beam of a little light, which unmistakably shone from the mast-head of some vessel. Valerius started. Were the Byzantines pushing forward to Neapolis by sea? Were they about to land soldiers at his back? But if so, would not more lights be visible?
He turned to question the slaves, who, at his order, but with visible reluctance, had followed him from the villa. In vain; they had disappeared into the darkness of the night. They had deserted their master as soon as they were unobserved.<br>
So Valerius arrived alone at the pass, the nether or western end of which was guarded by two Goths, while two more filled the eastern entrance towards the enemy, and the other four kept the inner space.<br>
Scarcely had Valerius joined the two in front, when suddenly the tramp of horses was heard close at hand, and soon, round the next turning of the road, there appeared two horsemen, advancing at full trot.<br>
Each carried a torch in his right hand; and these torches alone threw light upon the midnight scene, for the Goths avoided everything that could betray their small number.<br>
“By Belisarius’s beard!” cried the foremost rider, checking his horse to a walk, “this hen-ladder is here so narrow, that an honest horse has scarcely room in it; and there is a hollow way or—Halt! What moves there?”<br>
He stopped his horse, and bent carefully forward, holding the torch far out before him. In this position, close before the entrance of the pass, he presented an easy aim.<br>
“Who is there!” he again asked.<br>
For all reply a Gothic spear pierced through the mail of his breast-plate and into his heart.<br>
“Enemies!” screamed the dying man, and fell backwards from his saddle.<br>
“Enemies! enemies!” cried the man behind him, and, hurling his treacherous torch far from him, turned his animal and galloped back; while the horse of the fallen man remained quietly standing at his master’s side.<br>