Time on My Hands Chapter 27 - 259-267 CE: The Spry Centenarian

Time on My Hands
Chapter 27: 259-267 CE: The Spry Centenarian

The land around the south shore of Lac Leman had been settled by the Celtic Nantuatae tribe including up the upper Rhone river valley to the point it narrows just above Monthey. The rest of the upper Rhone valley had been settled by the Celtic Seduni tribe. The area south of Geneva at the western end of Lac Leman and east of the Rhone was settled by the Celtic Allobroges tribe. All three tribes had been conquered by the Romans during the times of Julius Ceasar and his successors. The tribes were not supplanted by the Romans, and after their initial conquest, stayed on the land in relative peace.

The massive influx of people was too much to absorb on the limited lands of the province Alpes Graiae Et Poeninae, more farmland was needed. With the purchase of the Roman Senatorial Estates, Raben now owned most of the land of the Seduni and the Nantuatae. To expand his land he set out exploring the land to the west of Barmaz and south of Lac Leman, what remained of the Nantuatae an that of the Allobroges. Many of the farms were subsistence level like he had bought in Barmaz. The better farmland was owned by absentee Senatorial landlords. Raben knew he could deal with the subsistence farms as he had done in Barmaz. The tougher deal would be to buy out the Roman Estates.

The elders spearheaded Raben’s efforts to integrate the newest members of the Clan Corvo into the base population. Since there was a definite lack of men amongst the newcomers, to the tune of 60,000, Raben wanted the men related to him to take up to 4 additional wives and have children with them. This would solidify the integration, tying the them to the Clan Corvo. The wives were not happy with the arrangement but understood the reality requiring it. They all knew if the Demon Slayer wanted something for the betterment of the Clan Corvo, he got it. The scribes of Corvus Scriptorium made the rounds drawing up lineage lists and charts of the former Alemanni.

The turmoil in the empire continued unabated. The fact the Alemanni invasion had swept past Barmaz made Raben realize additional steps would be needed to keep his home safe. Reluctantly he set up a militia. Beginning at age thirteen all residents of Barmaz, male and female, were required to join the Clan Corvo militia to train in military disciplines. Each year everyone reaching thirteen that year gathered for a two month long boot camp. For the Initial boot camp all unmarried teens over thirteen attended. After completing boot camp everyone would attend a two day training session once every four weeks with sessions held every week for 1/4 of those eligible, including during the winter. Adults would be trained by attending separate two day every four week camps with two sessions a week for 1/8 of the adults. They were trained in hand to hand combat as well as archery, sword, spear, and javelin use. In addition, during times of slack workload, residents were put to work adding to the walls on the border making them higher and wider with a step for the defenders to stand upon. To obtain the stone for the wall they excavated a wide road behind the wall as well as the slope below the outside of the wall to an angle of 75°. In addition as they needed lumber they cut down the trees for 500 hundred feet outside of the wall to provide a clear line of sight. Future plans called for removing all potential places of cover in the cleared zone.

In addition, the Torrent des Cretes joined the east side of the Vieze about 1500 feet north of Val D’Illez. The Cretes first 1500 feet upstream rose 825 feet above the Vieze. The slope increased even more sharply as it’s valley narrowed. A tunnel would be dug to divert the stream. A sturdy sluice gate would be built to regulate the discharge. An Immense stone dam 325 feet high would be built across the V shaped valley that was 10 feet wide at the bottom but 500 feet at the top to create a reservoir 600 feet long. The water could be used to flush the Vieze if invaders attempted to attack beneath the boundary bridge. During normal times more mills would be built to utilize the redirected normal water discharge.

The Alemanni's success in reaching into the heart of Rome revealed the weakness inherent in keeping the legions near the borders. The Battle of Mediolanum demonstrated to the Romans the value of swift, flexible military units. Gallienus introduced a highly mobile field army composed mainly of cavalry headquartered in Mediolanum to be a back up line of defense in case the borders were breached. The fact the Senate had raised and armed a militia upset the emperor. The senators were trying to regain authority by arming and commanding its own military forces to meet the Germanic threat. Uncomfortable with this challenge to his power, Gallienus harshly suppressed all the Senate's military prerogatives.

Once the Germanic tribes crossed the Alps, the chaos abated amongst the remaining battered Roman troops in Gaul. They were able to regroup under their commander, Postumus. When the Juthingi fled north with their booty and captives through the Reshen and Brenner passes they ran into the regrouped legions and were soundly defeated. Instead of returning the Juthingi booty and captives, Postumus let his soldiers have the spoils of their raid as a reward for their loyalty. The happy troops proclaimed Postumus Emperor and killed the son of Gallienus who had been left in command. Postumous realized he could never take Rome so chose to create the Gallic Empire which included the territories of Germania, Gaul and Britannia. Postumus never made an attempt to advance on Rome itself concentrating on maintaining control of the Rhine border. The emperor was furious that his son had been killed. Unfortunately he was stretched too thin to even consider mounting a campaign.

The ongoing fighting with the Persians reached a crescendo in early 260. The Persians captured Valerian and his army in battle ending his reign. He was kept prisoner until his death about four years later. With Valerian's capture more revolts broke out forcing Gallienus to put out the fires, further postponing efforts to crush Postumus.

While the Roman Empire trembled beneath the border threats along the Danube, the Persians in the east and rebellions of usurpers like Postumus in Gaul, Barmaz, Mazbar, and Zamrab flourished due to Raben’s wise guidance to avoid politics. The fact that Mazbar and Zamrab were readily accessible yet several miles away from their city and were nearly self-sufficient allowed them to avoid the major drama. In the east the Persians pushed deeper into Roman territory. While most of the provincial leadership rebelled the leader of Palmyra remained loyal. With the Persians threatening the city he was declared king, forming an army of Palmyrenes and Syrian peasants to counterattack. Expecting an easy victory the Persians were stunned and decisively defeated.

During the winter of 259-260 Raben made arrangements for wagons to make the trip over the Alps into Rome delivering the families of the Senators and picking up much needed food. The plans called for a wagon train of 60 vehicles and a 120 horses or mules plus mounted guards. The ransomed senatorial families packed their meager possessions. Raben set out for Rome as the Poenninus Mons was freed from the snows. Upon arriving in the Po valley May the news of Valerian's defeat and capture reached Rome. The guards and teamsters took the wagons to Rome. Raben accompanied them to ensure all made it safely to their destinations thus fulfilling his end of the upper Rhone river valley Senatorial estate purchases and earning the thanks of the senators. The wagons returned to Barmaz filled with food.

Raben stayed on to speak with the Senators who owned the Estates south of the Lac Leman and the east of the Rhone below Geneva. Those Senators were quite aware of the sacking of the Senatorial Estates along the upper Rhone. The fears that future incursions could ruin their estates was very real. Their area was part of Gaul thus under the control of the Usrper Postumus. They knew of Raben, Corvus Scriptorium and that he was of mixed Celtic/Germanic race thus avoided his holdings being plundered by the Alemanni. They were aware his grandparents had accompanied Severus to Caledonia and that his mother had been forced to serve as chief physician for Elgalabalus. So when Raben talked to them about buying their estates outright, they leapt at the opportunity to rid themselves of the foreign headache. With his profitable businesses and his tremendous earnings/windfall from investments during the Egalabalus reign, the costs of buying the estates, while high, still left him one of the top 5 wealthiest people in the Roman Empire.

As the summer of 260 ended Raben decided to return to Barmaz. The Alemanni, who had absorbed his scattered birth clan, were now being absorbed into the Clan Corvo. The fact he rescued 240,000 of them from slavery made them quite loyal. Although it was common amongst the Germanic tribes to assist those in need, no one had ever done what the Clan Corvo had done in absorbing nearly 20 times their number. That’s not to say everything was rosy, but they were free and had hope for the future. They were also under the protection of the Demon Slayer. Many were relocated to his new estates along the Avre, La Laire, Nant de Longet, Nant de Vosogne, Ruisseau de Couvatannaz, Ruisseau de Parnant, Les Usses, Le Fier, Canal de Savieres, Le Flon et La Lone, Le Guiers and the Isere above the Bourne.

The new year began a period of deep contemplation for the eternal youth. The year 261 was quite significant for the Ianuarian. It was the centenary of his birth. Raben was 100 years old, an age virtually unheard of at that time. The Clan Corvo celebrated his milestone birthday at their annual spring equinox gathering. Raben laughed and sang, played the flute and the pandura, sharing music and instruments from the varied areas of his travels. That brought up another area that needed to be saved for posterity, music. Letters were sent to Mazbar and Zamrab requesting they begin collecting any and all written music. Another went to the musician guild in Rome asking them to attempt to establish a standard system for written music. The design of musical instruments would also be needed: dimensions, materials, methods of play as well as detailed descriptions of construction. With a smile he realized there was a lot to do over the next hundred years. There was no way he could become bored with life... which was a good thing.

The perpetually prepubescent teen spent much of the year in quiet reflection. The gaining of the Curse. Becoming the Demon Slayer. Gaining Barmaz. Outliving everyone he loved. Watching the family he loved age and die ripped him apart. His own violent painful death and resurrection. His ordeal floating for days in the sea. Knowing that if he allowed someone to slay him as he had done to Marcellus Longinus he’d be passing the Curse to another was unacceptable. The frustration of being an eternal adolescent. The frustration of being intersex. The satisfaction of being an extraordinary Ianuarian. The guilt of being an extraordinary warrior with 281 kills. His life was an unwanted dichotomy that he could not escape. More importantly, he didn’t want to escape his fate. The visit from Ianuaria showed him he was favored by the Gods. But what about Jesus? Was he the son of the one True God? The faith of Christianity seemed well suited for his lifestyle. The problem came with the religion of Christianity. Faith was man looking to heaven for guidance, religion was man dragging God to earth, attempting to cage God inside rules they create.

His thoughts turned to the future. He had no doubts Rome would fall, when was still the question. The invading barbarians would eventually overwhelm the Roman corruption and entrenched hierarchy. However the invaders were not really barbarians, nor would it all be an armed invasion. They were people with a different civilization, oft times at odds with that of Rome. The reality was that whenever different civilizations met, both adopted from the other forever changing both... hopefully for the better.

Rome began over a thousand years before as an insignificant band of Latin speaking farmers who had recently moved from a nomadic hunter/gathering lifestyle to a settled agriculture based life along the fertile flood plains along the Tiber River. Their transitional success changed their tribal life. Being well fed they not only lived longer lives but more of their children reached adulthood. Their population quickly swelled outgrowing their ability to support themselves. They needed more land to farm so set out taking land from their less successful neighbors. Thus Rome grew to become the Roman Empire.

The same was happening to the Germans. They were well along in the process of transitioning from hunter/gathering with a bit of farming to primarily farming, copying from the Romans, and their population swelled. Since the start of the Roman Empire immigrants trickled across the porous borders. Craftsmen sought better markets, laborers wanted honest employment, warriors enlisted in the Roman military, tribal leaders purchased land for their people inside the empire just as Raben had done for his family. Of course there were also marauders who burned, looted, raped and murdered.

The Gauls were of Celtic descent. They had been conquered by Rome and were Romanized. Now along the Rhine River the Franks were pushing across the borders of the North Sea coastal areas as the remaining Alemanni continued stirring further south. Any who conquered Rome would be at least partially Romanized. Unfortunately it looked like there would be many conquerors since none were strong enough on their own. They would slowly whittle down and fracture the empire.

Raben’s efforts in building the archives would save Roman, Greek, Persian, Egyptian and other ancient knowledge from being lost. He had the Persian and Egyptian documents forwarded to Barmaz. Translating those documents helped him relax. He even created lexicons translating those written languages into Greek and Latin so others might be able to do translations although at a much slower and possibly inaccurate manner. Once he made a translation in Latin or Greek, other scribes copied it. The original document along with his original translation were placed in the archives.

The key to preserving the invaluable archives was the Barmaz Bailiwick, tucked off the beaten path without enough natural resources to make it worthwhile to plunder yet close enough to keep abreast of the outside world. It was up to Raben to keep Barmaz safe, to provide a sanctuary for his growing Clan Corvo and to keep the old knowledge alive and relevant for the future.

He had to plan for how quickly the Clan Corvo was growing. By rescuing the Alemanni they had most definitely outgrown the Barmaz Bailiwick. The terrain made it difficult to expand the walled area. The Clan was expanding into the upper Rhone river valley of which the clan already owned 90% thanks to Raben’s wise intervention during the Alemanni incursion. Raben instructed his people in Barmaz to purchase any additional land that might become available. As had become his practice, he set easy rental and loan terms for those who lived on, worked, and owned the land he might purchase. The same would apply to those who owned shops and businesses in the villages as he slowly bought that land. As the Clan Corvo grew, they would replace or marry into those shop and business owning families.

The dynamics of the empire were constantly morphing. In Rome’s beginning the Curiales were the leading members of the city of Rome with roles both civil and sacred. Curiales were expected to procure funds for public building projects, temples, festivities, games, and local welfare systems. They would often pay for these expenses out of their own pocket as a means to increase their personal prestige. The Curiales were also responsible for the collection of Imperial taxes, provide food and board for the army and support the imperial post. As the empire spread so did the Curiales. By this time Curiales were the merchants, businessmen, and mid-level landowners who served as local magistrates. Problems began as the taxes rose. The Curiales were responsible for the taxes accessed. If they were unable to collect them from their neighbors, they came from their own pockets. Even worse, they could not escape their responsibilities.

Those at the top of society, the elite senators with their profitable estates, were exempt from the increasingly onerous taxes. The smaller landowners and businessmen bore the tax burden. If unable to pay they had to borrow. The only ones who had money to loan were the wealthy who demanded security for the loans. If the loans defaulted, they took over the property indenturing or enslaving the debtors, thus becoming richer and pushing the tax burden on the remaining taxpayers. The rich became richer while the poor became poorer as the middle class shrank.

Recognizing this looming trap, Raben decided he had to get back into politics, only this time on HIS terms. Just before the snows closed the Poeninus Mons he returned to Rome. Gallienus was collecting troops to move against Postumus. A revolt in Asia by Valerian’s surviving generals forced a delay as some troops were sent to crush the revolt. Using his position as both a noted physician and owner of the well known and respected Corvus Scriptorium, Raben offered his services as physician, identifying himself as the grandson of Severus’ personal physician during the Caledonian campaign.

Raben easily inserted himself into the imperial entourage. Gallienus learned to appreciate the young man’s medical prowess keeping him nearby. In 263 Gallienus finally went after Postumus. Although trapping him, his cavalry allowed him to escape and gather new forces. During a second campaign in 265 he surrounded Postumus in Augusta Treverorum [PD Trier]. During the siege, Gallienus moved closer to the front to look for a suitable location to assault. To avoid detection he only took a few men rather than his regular guard relying on the siege troops for protection.

The besieged forces recognized the emperor and launched an immediate attack. Sallying forth, they swept toward the emperor and his small entourage. With temporary superiority they broke through the lines. Raben was swept up in the short but brutal fight. Keeping by the emperor’s side he killed nine of the desperate attackers. As legion reinforcements poured in, the sally force retreated to the city. Arrows flew from both sides with Gallienus being severely wounded by an arrow. Raben leapt from his horse landing behind the wounded emperor keeping the man from falling off his horse. Using his ability to communicate with animals he urged the horse to flee, guiding the horse to the emperors tent.

With his medical expertise Raben was able to save the severely wounded Gallienus. Unable to lead his troops, he withdrew his forces allowing the Gallic Empire to continue. The emperor knew Raben had saved his life and asked what he wanted as a reward. The Ianuarian knew what he wanted.

When they reached Rome, Gallienus issued an imperial decree not only declaring Raben Corvo a Roman Senator, but making it an hereditary position within the Clan Corvo. As a Senator, Raben and his successors were exempt from imperial taxes. Once Gallienus recovered, Raben once more left the imperial service. By this time he understood he could no longer avoid Roman politics. The best he could do was to be proactive and attempt to control his involvement.

In December he set sail for Egypt, arriving just after the new year. The stability of the entire region was even worse than that in Rome. While the governor of Palmyra had driven the Persians back they were not fully defeated. Much of Anatolia was a mess with frequent seaborne incursions from the Goths and others crossing the Black Sea. The Goths penetrated in the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean in the area between the Bosporus and Egypt. Roman authority had crumbled with local people doing their best to retain the civilization being part of the empire had engendered.

By then Zamrab had grown into the mostly self-sufficient settlement Raben had envisioned. The plans for the settlement consisted of buildings built three stories tall with the first floor dedicated to barns or businesses with living quarters above. Being away from the intrigues and gossip of Alexandria allowed them to flourish. As he had done in Barmaz he decided the people needed to learn how to defend themselves. Up to this point the manager of Corvus Scriptorium had been overseeing the settlement. There was growing evidence the system wasn’t working but had yet to implode. To avoid that Raben set up a Council of Elders as he had in Barmaz. The scriptorium manager, now just a member of the elder council, was thus freed to concentrate on using his expertise on the scriptorium.

At a mass meeting Raben explained the need for a dependable defensive force. Many residents didn’t want to be a part of the militia. Like most people to this day they understood the need to have a security force but didn’t want to participate.

“I understand your reluctance to be part of our militia,” Raben addressed them. “Unfortunately with the unsettled times having a local militia has become a necessity. I have instituted a mandatory militia in my primary home at Barmaz where much of my family lives. Starting at age thirteen females as well as males are required to learn how to use weapons and serve in the militia. You know I have family here as well as in Mazbar so they, male and female, will be part of the militia like everyone else. Having a militia here is not an option so all will join. As such you have a choice, join the militia or move away. If you choose to move, you will lose your job. We have many former legionaries amongst us so they can train us. Yes US! When Fiach or I am here we are part of OUR militia!”

There was nothing to be said after that. Everyone knew that Raben and Fiach had excellent martial prowess. The fact his family was committed to the militia meant there would be no exceptions. They could accept or leave. None left. Raben spent the next year securing weapons and setting up the Zamrab militia.

The eastern Zamrab boundary followed the eastern distributary of the Nile River which had been channelized to be a shipping and irrigation canal. The Nile distributary was 200 feet wide as it passed the property. At the northeast corner of the property the waterway made a 45° turn to the northeast. The waterway ran south from that point for 1 1/2 miles then made a 90 turn to the east with a radius of 1 mile. The land Raben had purchased for Zamrab was roughly 2 miles by 2 miles. Thus the eastern boundary of Zamrab followed the waterway including a 1/2 mile section on the outside of the 1 mile radius of the 90 waterway turn in the southeastern corner.

Raben purchased thirty slaves using them to dig a channel 10 feet deep by 200 feet wide along the boundary with quarter mile radius 90° turns on the southwest and northwest corners. Smaller irrigation canals were dug to supply water for the farmland. The entire compound was surrounded by 200 feet of water too deep to walk through. A sturdy stone retaining wall with a 1 foot lip was constructed on the outside of the canal while the inner retaining wall was topped by a stone fortification wall 10 feet high. Keeping it dredged would be an ongoing job.

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