Raise a cheer to Victory! Law and order has been restored in newly-named Augusta, much sooner than anyone dared hope. But we are only half-way there, barbarian insurgents are still causing mayhem in the north.
The battle for Britannia is still to be won. As Count Theodosius’s army beds down for the winter, our intrepid reporter, Marcellus, files this report from Augusta and ponders the significance in the change of name.
An island under siege
Just six months ago the situation seemed hopeless. Saxons and Franks were terrorising south-coast communities and the commander of the coastal defences was killed in action.
Emperor Valentinian, in a quandary, chose to defend the Rhine rather than the Thames. Senior generals, Severus and Jovinus, came to Britain on fact-finding missions but they lacked the wherewithal to take on the barbarians. It was only a matter of time before the insurgents linked up with the northern Picts and Scots.
Speed is the key
But when Count Theodosius landed at Richborough, the situation changed entirely. According to official sources, he brought four regiments, around two thousand men, drawn from the emperor’s own field army, fully equipped with the latest weaponry.
Within a matter of weeks, by dividing his army into detachments, Theodosius had rounded up all the insurgents between London and the coast. As a cavalry sergeant put it to me, ‘All that booty and those prisoners they’d taken made ‘em sitting ducks - couldn’t miss ‘em!’
A new strategy
Theodosius was a man of contrasts - a Spanish landowner with the ear of the Hungarian emperor, Valentinian. Feared for his cruelty, this soldier may be on the brink of converting to Christianity. When I spoke to him yesterday, I started by asking how he would deal with the supporters of insurgency.
‘I accept that in many places the reliability of local police and army units is an issue. Therefore, I’m promising immunity to all soldiers who have deserted. We need trained soldiers back in post – and they need to recognise there’s a better future with us.’
Pressed about the chances of further quick victories, he went on:
‘This campaign won’t be over any time soon. We have to identify pockets of resistance, isolate them and blitz them. Then return the places to local units to administer.’
A long-term future?
So the omens are auspicious. The new commander has the soldiers, strategy and determination to restore peace to Britannia. Optimists are even talking of a new building programme here in Augusta. But will the new name bring prosperity and will it put pay to the barbarians for good?