The Fourth Legion

Dies Solis, Iunius XXVIII, MMXV – Detroit Urbs FC 1, Lansing Consocius 0

Photo by Dion Degennaro
Photo by Dion Degennaro

Caesar had been in many battles before, once as a foot soldier before he gained a command of his own. He’d won more than he’d lost and had gained crucial experience while remaining relatively unscathed. His love of victory drove him, and his calm disposition concealed a burning desire for excellence and supremacy over his foes.

He’d dealt with upstarts and pretenders before, often with far greater amounts of retribution than mercy. An apocryphal account suggests that when word reached his ear that the barbarians from the north were marching on the City itself, he smiled to himself and said “We will show them the path home.”* Though his foray into their province earlier in the year had been met with an ambush, he couldn’t have imagined that they would be so bold as to attempt a direct attack on the heart of the empire itself, especially with the strength of an entire legion defending her.

Photo by Non-League America
Photo by Non-League America

The bulk of the populace was behind his army, eager to defend their homeland from the foreign incursion. As he and his soldiers readied themselves for battle, their baggage train stretched for miles and miles behind them.

Degennaro
Degennaro

This was the third legion he’d commanded, but the fourth in the City’s history, which was reflected in their name: Legio IV Civitas. It included many veterans of his previous campaigns, as well as several youths eager to earn glory in the field.

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When the day finally came the barbarians marched to what they were sure would be a certain victory. Unease crept into their minds, though, as rows of silent citizens peered down at them from above.

Degennaro
Degennaro

Caesar’s men had had trouble adapting to the open fields of the north, but in the tighter, more compact home terrain, they were nearly unbeatable. The wet and slippery conditions further unsettled their foes, and the battle began with thousands there to witness it.**

The barbarians, led by Brunus, fought valiantly, and for much of the day it was unclear which side would be victorious. With dusk gathering, a young centurion from the province of Britannia rallied those around him and broke through the enemy lines to turn the tide.***

wmb lan

As smoke filled the air and the ground turned to mud, the invaders mustered a final attack. If it had succeeded, the outcome of the battle and indeed the future of the empire itself may have been drastically altered. Children today may have grown up wearing baby-blue sashes across their chests instead of the imperial rouge and gold.

Degennaro
Degennaro

As it stands today, the ancient battleground remains surprisingly unchanged. Though modern construction has grown up around it, one still may be able to catch the scent of sulfur in the air or hear echoes of the voices on the wind. While some of the details about the battle may be more myth than fact (one account suggests that a white bear was present), what is known is that the City did not fall on that day. The names, faces, and other memories of the Fourth Legion have endured to this day, while some are remembered only by the dead.

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* Head, Richard. The Rise and Rise of City. Faber College Press, 1986. 678.

**Contemporary historians claimed that the crowd of spectators numbered from 100,000 to 250,000, with one source going as high as 1 million. Modern research and archaeological evidence suggests that the true number was much lower, likely between 3700 and 3702.

***His full name is lost to the ages, but his initials “WMB,” were found in a recently discovered set of parchments. This may be a Greek translation of the original Latin because that’s how ancient languages work or something. I really don’t know, go ask your mother.

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