Wednesday 24 October 2012

It's just a flesh wound

As a rule all Roman aristocrats were expected to complete some sort of military service. Most did so as teenagers, fulfilling a one year term of 'national service' as junior officers the year they turned eighteen. Those who found army life agreeable tended to come back for more, while circumstances such as a land invasion of Italy by Hannibal gave others no choice. One such patrician who enjoyed a battle or two was Marcus Sergius. He rose to fame during the Second Punic war against Hannibal between 218BC and 201BC. During this time he was wounded twenty-three times, losing his right hand completely, while his left hand and both feet were too badly injured to be of any use. Still, not one to let the team down, he fought four battles with only his disabled left hand, during which time two horses were cut down underneath him. According to Pliny, Sergius had a right hand fashioned from iron and using this prosthetic he "raised the siege of Cremona, saved Placentia and captured twelve enemy camps in Gaul." He in turn was twice captured by Hannibal, but escaped both times - despite his lack of mobility and being chained day and night for twenty months. Hard to believe no one's made a movie about him yet.

Find out if Calvus was that keen on swashbuckling

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