Seems like a thousand years (or a bit over 30 generations) since I had occasion to actually write about Gaul. But I came across a marvellous website devoted to the Battle of the Sabis by a group called Livius.
The Battle of the Sabis, of course, is the 57 BC fight between Julius Caesar’s legions and the Nervian Confederacy of Northern Gaul (Belgium, they called it–but it was a much broader swath of land that what we call Belgium today.)
It’s a key fight that Emyn sees in bits–thanks to her ghosts–toward the end of Death Speaker.
The pictures on Livius’ site–including my favorite here, which belongs to Livius & is © Marco Prins and Jona Lendering–are of the Selle River. I hope those folks don’t mind that I use them–if so, contact me and I’ll take them down.
These pictures may or may not show the location of the battle. As I understand it, other locations (like the Escault River) have their adherents and no archaeological discoveries have settled the matter. No battlefield remnants have been found.
Still, these pictures are great, very well researched, and fit all that is known about the Sabis River site. Except . . .
. . . well, the picture right above is, according to the site, a hill called Le Quesnoy, and the spot where Caesar’s 10th Legion had parked. A hill? Seriously? The “slope” to the right leads down to the river.
Here is what Caesar says, according to my copy of The Conquest of Gaul:
“2:18 At the place that the Romans had chosen for their camp a hill sloped down evenly from its summit to the Sambre. Opposite it, on the other side of the river, rose another hill with a similar gradient, on the lower slope of which were three hundred yards of open ground. . .”
Sambre was the Roman’s name for the river.
The Livius site says this last picture looks from the Nervian side of the river, looking toward where the 12th and 7th legions of Rome assembled. Here, yes, I do see a hill. However, most of the landscape in the pictures (and there are over a dozen) show land I consider pretty flat.
Of course, in 2000 years, places change a lot, and I do not have a military eye for high ground at all. But it’s fair to say that the jury’s still out. Wonder if excavations–or even metal detector sweeps–have gone on at these sites?