کشاورز و سرباز

مجموعه: کتاب های فوق متوسط / کتاب: گلادیاتور / درس 2

کتاب های فوق متوسط

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کشاورز و سرباز

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Chapter 1 Farmer and Soldier

At the height of its power, the great Roman Empire stretched from the deserts of Africa to the borders of northern England.

Over one quarter of the world’s population lived and died under the rule of the Caesars .

In the winter of A.D.† 180, Emperor Marcus Aurelius’s twelve year war against the people of Germania was coming to an end.

There was one last battle to win. Then there would be peace across the Roman Empire.

The man walked through the sun-warmed Spanish field, his hand touching the wheat. He looked past apple trees to a farmhouse.

He heard a child laughing somewhere near. A bird flew onto the branch of a tree close to him and they looked at each other. The man smiled.

Suddenly, the sound of shouts and horses frightened the bird and it flew up into the air. The noise broke through the man’s daydream and he came back to the real world with a crash. He was not dressed in farmer’s clothes, as he had imagined, but in the proud armor of the Roman army. The field was burnt and muddy from battle, without a green leaf on it.

Beyond the tree line ahead, somewhere in the forest, the German armies were preparing to attack again. The man knew that behind him an enormous army waited. The Roman army, 40,000 men, his army. Maximus the farmer was Maximus the Commanding General of the Army of the North for one more battle. One last battle, and then he could go home to Spain.

He turned his horse and rode back to his men. Thirty-year-old Maximus was a great general—a man they could trust. He moved among them, checking that they were ready for battle. He looked back frequently to the line of trees.

Some of his officers were warming themselves around a fire, and Maximus joined them.

“Still nothing?” he asked Quintus, his second-in-command.

Quintus shook his head. “He’s been gone for almost two hours,” he said. “Why are they taking so long? They only have to say yes or no.”

A young officer gave Maximus a bowl of hot soup. He drank it slowly as they talked, always keeping one eye on the line of trees.

“Snow in the air,” said Maximus. “I can smell it.” “Anything’s better than this German rain,” Quintus said, looking out at the mud in front of his men.

Suddenly, there was a shout. “He’s coming!” All eyes turned to the trees. A horseman rode out, toward the Roman army. There was something strange about the way he was riding. Maximus was the first to understand.

“They say no,” he said.

As the horse came closer, the other men could see what had happened. The Roman messenger was tied to his horse. His head had been cut off. Maximus knew now what he had to do. Life was suddenly simple.

Far away, at the edge of the trees, a German chief appeared. In one hand he was holding the head of the messenger. He screamed his anger at the Roman army, then threw the head toward them.

Maximus’s men stared back and waited for their general’s order to attack.

Several carriages traveled along the road toward the battle area, protected by Roman soldiers. Inside the first carriage were the royal family—the Emperor’s son and daughter. Twenty-eight-year old Commodus and his beautiful older sister Lucilla were dressed in rich, warm clothes. They had left Rome two weeks before.

“Do you think he’s really dying?” Commodus asked Lucilla.

“He’s been dying for ten years,” she replied.

“I think he’s really sick this time. And he’s sent for us.” He pointed to the following carriages. “He sent for the senators, too.

If he isn’t dying, why does he want to see them?” “Commodus, you’re giving me a headache. Two weeks on the road with you is more than enough,” said Lucilla, impatiently.

Commodus moved closer to her. “No, he’s made his decision,” he said. “He will name me as Emperor. And I know what I shall do first. I shall organize some games . . .”

“I shall have a hot bath,” said Lucilla.

The carriage stopped. Commodus stepped down and spoke to one of the guards.

“We are almost there, sir.”

“Good,” said Commodus. “Bring me my horse.” Under his warm traveling coat Commodus was wearing Roman armor. He looked handsome and brave, the perfect picture of a new, young emperor. The guard brought Commodus his horse.

“Take me to my father. And take my sister to the camp.” Commodus reached out a hand to Lucilla. “Kiss,” he said, smiling like a little boy.

Lucilla brushed his fingers with her lips, then watched him ride away.

Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome, sat on his horse and stared at the army below. His hair and beard were white, but only his eyes really showed his age and state of health. Marcus knew he was dying and soon he must name the next emperor. But first this battle must be won.

From another hill, Maximus also looked down onto the Roman army. His men were ready to fight.

The German soldiers started to move out from the trees.

There were thousands of them, dressed in animal skins, shouting at their Roman enemies.

Maximus bent down from his horse and took some earth in his hands, as he did before every battle. Then he let it fall through his fingers. It was a sign his men had seen many times before and they knew what it meant. Maximus gave the command and a flaming arrow shot into the sky. Hundreds more followed.

Thousands of German soldiers rushed forward and met the first line of Romans. The air was filled with the sound of screaming as more arrows landed and men from both armies died terrible deaths.

Maximus led soldiers on horseback into the battle at the same time as 5,000 Roman foot soldiers moved forward from another side. Each man marched behind a large shield, each carried a sword. The Germans were caught between two walls of death.

Above them the sky was full of flaming arrows. They were fighting for their lives.

Suddenly, Maximus was trapped between two Germans. He swung his sword around in a circle, striking both men dead. Then he rode forward again, and his sword cut through the enemy soldiers in his path.

Maximus’s horse suddenly fell forward, a German sword in its neck. The General flew over his horse’s head and crashed to the ground. There was danger all around him, but he continued fighting. He found the Roman flag, still in the hand of a dead soldier, and held it high. His men fought their way toward it and defended their position bravely.

More and more Roman soldiers moved forward onto the battleground. They were well-trained and had the best equipment and armor. The Germans were not as good as the confident Roman army and finally they began to tire. Maximus saw that he was winning and moved up a little higher on the hill.

From there he could see and command his men better. The enemy began to lose confidence and some turned and ran. More joined them and soon the only Germans on the battlefield were dead or dying.

Maximus went back down and walked among them. As he stepped over bodies, he began to relax and let his sword arm fall to his side. Behind him, a dying German suddenly lifted himself from the ground and rushed forward with his sword. Maximus was calling an order to one of his officers when he saw the sudden look of terror on the officer’s face and immediately swung his sword around, cutting off his attacker’s head. There was so much power behind the sword that it flew from his hand and landed in a tree.

Maximus had no strength left to pull it out again. The battle had ended. As he looked at the dead around him, he could only think that his men had won, and he had lived.

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