Dismantling Carthage's empire gave me a toehold in Spain so I pressed on. Spain's armies were weak and disorganised so it was easy enough to destroy the faction and capture the entire Iberian peninsula with a small expeditionary force.
Although the Carthagians didn't put up much of a fight I was so taken with the city itself that I moved my factions Capital to the region and set about expanding my control of North Africa. I faced the Numideans to the West and the Egyptians to the East. Thinking to avoid fighting on both fronts at the same time I dispatced a sweet talking Diplomat to Egypt and set about dislodging the Numideans.
In hindsight this may have been a mistake. The Numidean armies were a weak hodgepodge of phalanxes and horsemen but I greatly underestimated the vast distances involved in crossing the North African wastes. Many many seasons were lost as I trudged my armies from one badly defended Numidean settlement to the next and all the while Egypt was taking advantage of our hastily negotiated peace treaty to build a massive miltary machine of their own. More on this later.
Around this time Gaius Marius instituted a fundamental reform of the Roman armies. Out went the citizen soldiers paying for their own gear and equipment according to their means and in came hardened professional legions. This proved to be both a blessing and a curse. The professional soldiers of the post Marius cohorts are undoubtedly the finest foot-soldiers in all the ancient world but they are also expensive to recruit and maintain. Happily my expanded empire is producing enough of a surplus at this stage to bear the cost but the specialised training that these units require causes an even bigger headache. Only the largest settlements are able to provide the barracks required to train a proper legionary cohort. Pre Marius an expeditionary army could be very self sufficient recruiting hastati and equites from captured settlements along the way. Post Marius any loss of footsoldiers can only be replaced from the larger towns far from the battle front.
On the Northern front I advanced through Gaul who at that time were one of the largest factions laughing off the feeble efforts of the Julii Romans to encroach on their territory from the south East. With strong swordsmen, forester archers and good cavalry the Gaulish hordes proved a tougher nut to crack than the Spanish but their indiscipline proved their undoing in the end. Time and again these barbarians threw away the advantage of superior numbers by charging prematurely or failing to hold a line. By this time my troops were a hodgepodge of depleted pre-marius units with a few newer legions brought in by ship but at least Romans know how to hold a line.
In the South Numidea was almost conquered and I finally thought to send a couple of spies Eastward to check on Pharaohs forces. I was shocked to discover several full stack armies marching Westward towards my lands. I hastily put together a defensive force with the intention of stopping Pharaoh in Libya. The vast distances across the Africa continent almost proved my undoing because it took at least two or three turns to transport replacement troops to the front. With five full stacks of Egyptians bearing down on my solitary Roman army I knew that I had to win each battle with losses 5 to 1 or more in my favour in order to survive until re-enforcements could arrive. Eventually I would set up a shuttle service from Sicily for re-enforcements but it was touch and go for a while, made worse by the fact that the Egyptians love fighting in the desert wastes of Libya and resisted all my efforts to lure into mountainous regions where their fearsome Scythe chariots would be less useful.
The Egyptians are a powerful military nation with a mix of phalanxes and axe wielding infantry,powerful archers and terrifying chariots. These scythe chariots have spinning blades protruding from their wheels and they can wreak awful carnage by just driving into a tight packed mass of infantry and letting the wheels chop up anyone nearby. Somewhat belatedly I realised that these spinning blades are also deadly to horses so my usual tactics of flanking a unit with a cavalry charge resulted in horrific loss of men and horses. Time for a rethink of tactics perhaps as I march Eastwards into Egypt?
to be continued...